National Ban On ‘Gay Conversion’ Therapy An Election Priority For LGBTIQ Australians


Rodney Croome

A new survey has found a national ban on dangerous “gay conversion” therapy is a top priority for LGBTIQ Australians ahead of the next federal election.

More than 2,500 participants were presented with a range of options for LGBTIQ law and policy reform and were asked to rank each in order of priority with conversion therapy receiving the highest ranking.

Other high priorities for LGBTIQ people included funding to improve the safety of LGBTIQ students in schools; a national LGBTIQ suicide and mental health strategy; the removal of exemptions that allow discrimination against LGBTIQ people by faith-based schools, hospitals and charities; and better protections for refugees seeking asylum on the basis of anti-LGBTIQ persecution.

The survey was conducted earlier this year by advocacy groups just.equal and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the results released this week.

Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said the group would use the results of the survey to seek commitments from all candidates and parties at the next election.

“The fact LGBTIQ+ people have themselves selected these priorities give us the strongest mandate possible for the election commitments we will seek,” he said.

“Just.equal and PFLAG have a commitment to going to the LGBTIQ+ community when important decisions need to be made, and basing our law and policy reform agenda on what LGBTIQ+ Australians tell us.”

“Gay conversion” therapy is the dangerous and discredited practice of attempting to “change” sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual means.

“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapies have been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society, and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.

Fairfax Media reported earlier this year that the practice had disappeared underground in Australia and was “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”

Conversion therapy survivor Chris Csabs, whose Change.org petition to ban the practice has received 42,000 signatures, said he was pleased to see such a high level of support for a national crackdown.

“But the problem is broader than just therapies in a medical context and we want to see a public health campaign against the whole idea that LGBTIQ+ people are ‘broken,'” he said.

Meanwhile, survey respondents also indicated their support for human rights protections to be entrenched in the Australian Constitution, rather than simply in legislation.

When asked about representation, respondents said their priorities are establishing liaison groups in federal government departments and better funding for existing advocacy organisations.

PFLAG national spokesperson Shelley Argent said, “The political parties need to know that just because we have marriage equality, it doesn’t mean LGBTIQ+ people have full and equal rights.

“Many LGBTIQ+ people fear their rights will be taken away which makes it all the more important to highlight what still needs to be done.”

Transgender respondents put Medicare funding for gender transition as their top priority and intersex respondents backed a ban on unnecessary medical procedures.

The responses of those non-LGBTIQ people who took the survey were generally consistent with the responses of LGBTIQ people, except on the issue of law reform.

Non-LGBTIQ+ people indicated that equality for LGBTIQ families is their first priority, whereas they ranked a ban on gay conversion therapy second.