A survivor of harmful “gay conversion” therapy has criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to a petition calling for a ban on the practice.
A coalition of survivors, LGBTIQ advocates and churches have urged the Morrison government to address the issue ahead of the next election.
But Morrison said on Monday that it “was not an issue I’m focused on at all.”
“I think people should make their own choices about their own lives. I’ve never been involved in anything like that, I’ve never supported anything like that,” he said.
“It’s just not an issue for me, and I’m not planning to get engaged in the issue.”
Canberra man Chris Csabs (pictured, below) is one survivor of a “gay conversion” therapy program, and his petition against the practice has attracted 43,000 signatures since March.
“We met once a week and went through a manual, that peddled ideologies that lesbian, gay and trans people are broken and need to be fixed or healed,” he told news.com.au.
“The message I got was that there was something wrong with me, that there was a malevolent spirit somewhere inside affecting my sexuality.
“Even now as a happily gay man who is also a Christian, it still affects me.”
Canberra man Chris Csabs
Though “conversion” therapies is less prevalent than in the past, Fairfax Media reported in April that such practices still existed and had disappeared underground in Australia.
He said he doesn’t believe a “simplistic answer” like Morrison’s was good enough.
“It’s very easy to say you don’t support these things but it’s the ideology and messaging that permeates the religion and which is really quite common in society that needs to be challenged,” he said.
“If people want to believe that homosexuality is a sin, that’s their prerogative… but there is a place for intervention through public health campaigns.
“LGBTI people of faith are dying and being harmed by that sort of messaging. It’s not consistent with Australian values and I think the government does have a responsibility there.”
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone told Sky News on Tuesday the response from Morrison was “a missed opportunity.”
“It did seem to be a missed opportunity to put for once and for all that there is no place for conversion therapy in our society in the 21st century,” he said.
“We know that it’s associated with negative outcomes, it’s not based on any research, it’s archaic, and it’s only associated with long-term harm to the patients involved.”
Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, opposition mental health spokesperson Julie Collins, and equality spokesperson Senator Louise Pratt said Federal Labor supported banning the practice in a joint statement on Monday.
“Scott Morrison must show some leadership, stand up to the Liberal Party reactionaries and unequivocally condemn gay conversion ‘therapy,'” they said.
“Real leaders don’t just wash their hands of serious problems and say ‘that’s got nothing to do with me’. They take a stand.
“Labor is taking a stand against this practice, which the World Medical Association has called a serious threat to the health and human rights of those subjected to it. Homosexuality is not some kind of disorder that requires a cure.”