The ACT Legislative Assembly passed a bill seeking to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy in Canberra, with Labor MLA and Uniting Church minister Gordon Ramsay holding back tears in the house.
The Sexuality and Gender Identity Conversion Practices Bill means conversion practises used on protected people from the beginning of next year will face up to a 12-month prison sentence or a $24,000 fine.
It also provides for civil penalties, allowing the power to issue orders against accused persons to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and order relief and compensation for them.
The bill defines sexuality or gender identity conversion practices as “a treatment or other practice … the purported purpose of which is to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity”.
Under the bill there is no ban on activities relating to helping an individual experiencing or contemplating a gender change.
Following concerns posed by many organisations including the Association of Christian Schools and the ACT Law Society, one amendment was made to the bill this morning before it was passed that the definition of sexuality or gender identity conversion activity was “too broad and vague” and could lead to parents and teachers being criminalised.
The amendment put forward by the Government will now give a person “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and faith, including the freedom to express his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practise and teaching, either individually or as part of a group and whether in public or private,” under section 14 of the 2004 Human Rights Act.
“It is not intended that a mere expression of a religious tenet or belief would constitute a sexuality or gender identity conversion practice,” the amendment states.