It's D-day for Canberra's gay conversion practices bill. Update - it passes.
UPDATE 2: The bill has passed the House of Assembly, with government amendments designed to give some protections to schools and churches. The opposition Canberra Liberals say the amendments are not sufficient.
UPDATE 1. The Bill is being debated. the Chief minister Andrew Barr is moving amendments that introduces a new example to the list in the bill. This is linked to a note that references the right of Canberrans to exercise their religious beliefs. “It is not intended that a mere expression of a religious tenet or belief would constitute a sexuality or gender identity conversion practice,” the note says.
“I note there will be some religious groups that do not believe this goes far enough. But we are not going to be watering down this bill,” Barr says. The Barr amendment passes. It is an alternative to an opposition Canberra Liberal amendment that sought to add a more substantive clause to the bill with a similar aim. Alistair Coe, the opposition leader, makes it clear the opposition opposes conversion therapies but sought stronger protection for religious activities
Andrew Barr addresses an opposition amendment about parents discussing LGBT issues with their children, saying these are not captured by the definition of conversion practices in the bill. “The definition does go near the matters addressed by the Canberra Liberals. For the avoidance of doubt the Government has inserted similar language in the explanatory statement of the bill.”
The Government is using the mechanisms of the explanatory statement and examples to avoid adding new substantive clauses to the bill. They say these will meet many of the objections by religious groups.
In his speech in support of the bill, the Chief minister says
“This bill does not permit people under 18 to pursue radical gender identity change without parental input.
“This bill bans incredibly harmful practices that seek to change people’s sexuality and gender identity.
“The Bill is very specific. It does not criminalise the preferences of parents in raising their children in the religion they choose.
“Feedback from survivors of conversion practices will have a key role in the implementation of this bill. I want to commend the Brave network of network.”
Practices aimed at changing or fixing someone’s sexuality and or changes their sexuality are abhorrent. They are now rare… but we need to send a message.
Today is the last day of sitting for the ACT House of Assembly which means the chamber has to decide whether to pass the The Sexual and Gender Identity Conversion Practices Bill 2020. The bill provides penalties of up to $24,ooo or a 12 month jail sentence for “conversion practices” used on vulnerable people or children.
The definition of “conversion practices” as “a treatment or other practice … the purported purpose of which is to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity”, has been criticised for being too broad by Christian groups such as Australian Association of Christian Schools (AACS). Their criticism centres on teaching – in particular religious teaching.
John Steenhof, Managing Director of the Human Rights Law Alliance outlined scenarios including prayer and parent’s guidance which could fall foul of the proposed law – reported by Eternity here.
The ACT Law Society said that some of AACS’s concerns could theoretically be possible under proposed legislation, according to an ABC report.
“They’ve constructed a definition that potentially includes practices that could be otherwise regarded as schooling or education,” criminal law committee chair Michael Kukulies-Smith said of the proposed bill.
“That’s obviously a concern, and it’s a concern that it’s too broad for criminal conduct.”
In response, the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said some “minor changes” to the bill will be introduced. These could include further examples of practices not consider to be conversion practices, or an explanatory note saying religious teaching is not covered.
“In the face of community uproar, the ACT government has cobbled together a clumsy amendment that increases the ambiguity of the bill and makes it more dangerous,” Dan Flynn, ACT Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, said this morning.
“The Government proposes to attach a note to clarify that a ‘mere expression of a religious tenet or belief’ will not be a banned conversion therapy practice …
“The amendment makes the bill worse.”