News Gay conversion therapy banned in Victoria as Liberals break ranks

Gay conversion therapy banned in Victoria as Liberals break ranks

The bill seeks to protect gay people. Photo: Getty
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Gay conversion practices have been banned in Victoria following a lengthy debate in parliament overnight, during which two Liberal MPs broke with party ranks to vote against the bill.

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill passed the Legislative Council on Thursday night 29 votes to nine following a marathon 12-hour debate.

Liberal MPs Bev McArthur and Bernie Finn broke party ranks and voted against the government’s legislation, along with crossbench MPs Jeff Bourman, Catherine Cumming, Clifford Hayes, Stuart Grimley, David Limbrick, Tania Maxwell and Tim Quilty.

The bill will outlaw practices that seek to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those found to have engaged in conversion practices that result in serious injury will face penalties of up to 10 years’ jail or up to $10,000 in fines.

In supporting the bill, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick described himself as the proud father of two “perfect” transgender children.

“They do not need fixing. Nor do any other children or adults who do not fit an often religiously held belief that sexuality and gender are binary only,” he said.

Labor’s Harriet Shing, the first openly lesbian member of Victorian parliament, acknowledged conversion therapy victims and survivor groups who have advocated for the ban for many years.

“(Their experiences) have had the effect, directly or indirectly, of breaking them or of trying to break them,” she said.

Ms Shing called out the “cognitive dissonance” and “doublespeak” of MPs who were opposing the bill despite supporting a ban on conversion practices.

“It is not acceptable that in a debate like this victims and survivors and our communities – my communities – are denied the opportunity to have our equality, our pain and hurt and trauma, on a footing which is of the utmost importance,” she said.

The coalition did not oppose the bill but moved a number of amendments that failed, including one to pause its progress for further consultation.

Advocates including the Brave Network, the LGBTQIA+ committee of the Uniting Church in Australia, and Rainbow Catholics, have described the bill as the “world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement”.

The bill goes further than one passed in Queensland last year in that it prohibits harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.

This includes “carrying out a religious practice including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

Faith groups have claimed the bill attacks religious freedom, while some medical professionals have raised concerns it could compromise the practice of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

“This bill does not outlaw prayer. It does not prevent health professionals from doing their job. It does not stop parents from talking to their kids about their views about sexuality or gender,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.

“To suggest anything to the contrary is rubbish.”

Ms Symes, who replaced Jill Hennessy in the role in December, said she was “friggin’ proud” to be carrying on her predecessor’s work.

“I can’t wait to go home and tell my kids what I did today,” she said.

The legislation will now go to the Victorian governor for royal assent. It will not come into effect for 12 months.

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