NSW Politics Is Undermining LGBT Rights Nationally 

NSW Politics Is Undermining LGBT Rights Nationally 
Image: NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (left) and Labor leader Chris Minns. Images: Facebook

The New South Wales Labor and Liberal parties are eager to win the state election this Saturday. So much so, both have pandered to the religious lobby on LGBTQIA+ conversion practices.

Worse still, they have adopted policy positions so weak the precedent could be used to undermine conversion bans in other states. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet told faith leaders in February any Liberal bill on conversions would “not ban prayer or preaching,” and that he opposed any unconsenting conversion practices – leaving open the door to “consenting” practices even though consent in this context is not possible.

NSW Opposition Leader, Chris Minns, told faith leaders that if he becomes Premier his government will “ban gay conversion therapy,” but added the caveat that he “will not go as far as Victoria has.”

 Both Perrottett and Minns have left open the door for religious-based conversion practices to continue. These account for 90 per cent of all such practices and are deeply traumatic for survivors, including adults.

Victoria Leads The Way

 To understand why both leaders said this you need to understand the campaign narrative of the religious right and its failed push to weaken the ban passed by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in 2021. 

According to survivors of conversion practices who advised the Victorian government on its legislation, that state now has the most effective ban not just in Australia, but worldwide.

It is effective precisely because it has no exemptions for “faith-based counselling” and it recognises that neither children nor adults can “consent” to a practice about which they are not fully informed or pressured to undertake. 

The religious right hates the Victorian law because it works. It is a legal framework that moves Victoria towards eradicating conversion practices, despite a determined effort by the evangelicals to scuttle the Bill with unfounded fears, misinformation and outright lies. 

Religious conservatives were so alarmed by the Victorian Bill they launched a huge attack on it, falsely claiming it would outlaw preaching against LGBTQA+ equality and make it illegal for doctors to properly treat trans children.

None of this is true. It’s a lie, a fear campaign, all designed to create the impression that the Victorian Government “had gone too far.” 

This misinformation campaign was based on the notion of “religious freedom being under attack”, the very same misdirection tactic used to oppose marriage equality. 

Religious Lobby’s Claims Problematic

The religious lobby likes to claim it opposes LGBTQA+ conversions, by which it means archaic medical interventions, including electro-shock treatment. But it draws a distinction between this and “spiritual counselling”, which is pseudo-psychological intervention, not physical.

 The religious right claims that faith groups never coerce anyone into conversion practices and those adults undertaking it do so with consent.

This is problematic for two reasons. First, it doesn’t work. Quack conversion counselling is based on the notion that LGBTQA+ people are “sick,” “broken” and can be “cured.”  

The tragic consequence of this is that traumatised LGBTQA+ people in conservative religious environments fall prey to this ideology, only to spiral into anxiety and depression after months or years of conversion sessions failing them. Alcohol abuse, drug use, or suicide can result in those left with PTSD from the experience.

Second, it is impossible for people undertaking conversion practices to give informed consent, because its practitioners are not qualified, and do not inform clients that the process doesn’t work and can cause harm. Besides this, peer pressure from families and congregations can be insurmountable. 

 Perrottet And Minns Have Fallen For Religious Propaganda

Survivors also talk of the intense pressure they can feel in wanting to be “cured,” given decades of conditioning around this concept. 

Thus, the political attack on Victoria’s legislation was framed as “going too far.” This is code for, “We hate this legislation because it stops us from doing it.”

Perrottet and Minns have both fallen for this, accepting the religious propaganda against the Victorian Bill and promising not to replicate it. The result will mean any ban proposed by a NSW Labor or Liberal government could be largely ineffective.

More concerning, however, is that Perrottet and Minns have now given cover to the Tasmanian Liberal Party which is currently looking at reform. Conservatives in that state are also pushing the line that “Victoria goes too far”. 

Proposed Gay Conversion Practices Ban In Other States In Jeopardy

Premier Jeremy Rockliff doesn’t agree. But now that mainland Labor and Liberal Leaders have called for weaker reform and disparaged the Victorian legislation, pressure will be on the Tasmanian Liberal Premier to weaken his proposal.

Likewise, Labor governments in Western Australia and South Australia are looking to ban conversions this year with an eye on the Victorian model. This is now jeopardised by Minns and Perrottet making it easier for the religious lobby to torpedo good bills. 

Once again, the conservative politics of NSW is impacting other states and undermining the rights and protections of LGBTQA+ people nationwide.  

Brian Greig is a spokesperson for Just.Equal Australia 

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