Labor Backs Away From Criminalising ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy


Labor leader Bill Shorten

The Australian Labor Party has decided against criminalising the dangerous practice of “gay conversion” therapy in a policy proposal at their national conference this week.

In its draft platform, the party originally had a policy that “opposes the practice of so-called conversion and reparative therapies on diverse sexuality and genders and seeks to criminalise these practices”.

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But at their national conference in Adelaide this week, the ALP decided against criminalising conversion therapy, amending the platform to instead “recognise the harm” caused by “so-called ex-gay, reparative or conversion pseudo-therapies and their underlying ideology” and “develop strategies to work with communities to prevent such harm and promote justice for LGBTIQ people affected by them”.

Labor Senator and Rainbow Labor spokesperson Louise Pratt told BuzzFeed the decision was made based on the recommendation of La Trobe University and Human Rights Law Centre report, released earlier this year.

“The best advice is that criminalisation won’t work and could make the situation worse and drive the practice underground,” she said.

One of the report’s co-authors, Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre and Equality Australia, said she welcomed the changes to the policy platform.

She said “civil sanctions, not criminalisation” combined with “targeted education, awareness raising within faith based communities, and specialised support for survivors” were required to tackle the “less formalised models” of gay conversion practices.

“Stronger legal responses are part of the solution but must be accompanied research and resources to support tailored interventions in faith communities,” she said.

“Civil prohibitions and stronger health regulation are a more proportionate, appropriate and effective legal response to gay conversion therapy in Australia.”

Conversion therapy survivor Chris Csabs said he was pleased that the ALP had listened to the recommendations of the SOCE Survivors Statement.

“Changing their policy to reflect that ‘gay conversion’ is broader than therapeutic practices and acknowledging that the ideology behind ‘gay conversion’ is also harmful, is an important step toward protecting the community,” he said.

A win for ‘parent’s rights’

But Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles said in a statement he welcomed Labor’s “watered down” approach, claiming it to be a win for “parents’ rights” including those who “want to affirm their child’s biological gender”.

“The ALP’s decision to back away from criminalising LGBT conversion therapies is welcome news to religious communities and parents,” Iles said in a statement.

“The ALP’s previous platform expanded the term to include mere claims that sexual orientation or gender identity can change.

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“It singled out religious communities who make such claims and said parents who did the same could be deemed domestic and psychological abusers.

“The themes of conversion and change are foundational to the Christian gospel as it applies to all people, regardless of their identity or personal attributes.”

In July, Iles described a ban on gay conversion therapy as “totalitarian” and said parents should be able to “counsel” children out of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Review of gender on passports and birth certificates

At its national conference in Adelaide this week, the ALP also agreed to review “documentation requirements, including passports and birth certificates, as they affect transgender and intersex people, to facilitate their equal enjoyment of human rights without discrimination and to promote identification options beyond binary male/female.”

The policy states that the party will “ensure that all people with intersex variations are able to exercise autonomy regarding sex/gender markers, and obtain identification options that match their sex characteristics and/or gender identities, as preferred.”

Last month, Tasmania’s lower house passed Australian-first legislation that would make the displaying of sex markers on birth certificates optional, prompting a conservative backlash.

The Labor platform states the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law, which advocates for the removal of sex markers from birth certificates, provides a “substantial guide” to government on LGBTIQ human rights obligations.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the draft platform in October by slamming Labor’s “obsession” with “nonsense” like removing sex markers from birth certificates.

Senator Louise Pratt told the Daily Telegraph she supported the guidelines and hoped a review would be held if Labor won the next election.

“We report on people’s identity and what they do in the world, and sometimes it is important and sometimes it is not,” she said.

“There are plenty of times when such information is unnecessary and stereotyping people into certain gender roles.”

Australian passports have offered an “X” option for “indeterminate” or “unspecified” gender since 2013.