Proposals to ban LGBT conversion therapy published by government 

The Catholic Church in Scotland said there is a 'worrying lack' of clarity about what the term 'conversion practices' means.

The Scottish Government has published proposals for a ban on LGBT conversion therapy as part of a public consultation.

Released on Tuesday, government ministers produced a document laying out plans to criminalise the practice of harmful behaviour which attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposals have raised concerns among those in the religious community, with the Catholic Church in Scotland saying there is a “worrying lack” of clarity about what the term ‘conversion practices’ means.

Religious leaders also believe the proposed law could create a “chilling effect”.

The government say proposed legislation would look to “prevent and respond to harmful acts” while protecting existing freedoms around speech, religion and belief.

Potential areas covered by the law could relate to therapy or counselling that requires a person to change or suppress on their same sex attraction, prescribing medication to suppress a person’s sex drive, repeatedly or continuously controlling a person’s activities and appearance and repeatedly or continuously threatening or humiliating someone.

Any law under the proposals would not include “non-directive and ethical guidance and support to a person who might be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity or experiencing conflict or distress, whether that is provided by a healthcare practitioner, a family member, or a religious leader”.

The law would also create new criminal offences of engaging in conversion practice, with providing a service and engaging in a course of coercive behaviour also included in potential offences.

Prosecutors under the new law would have to prove that anyone engaging in conversion practices intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and that ‘physical or psychological harm’ was caused.

The consultation, which is seeking the views of members of the public, will run until April 2.

Equalities minister Emma Roddick says conversion practices are 'damaging and destructive acts'.Getty Images

Emma Roddick, equalities minister, said: “Conversion practices, which aim to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, are damaging and destructive acts that violate people’s human rights.

“Sadly, these practices still happen today and they have absolutely no place in Scotland.

“In taking forward our commitment to ban conversion practices we are leading the way in the UK and joining the growing list of countries acting to address this harm.

“The consultation responses we receive will help us to further consider those measures we can take to stop the harm of conversion practices and protect those at risk while ensuring that freedoms – including freedoms of speech, religion, and belief – are safeguarded.”

Mark Kelvin, chief executive at LGBT Health and Wellbeing said: “Conversion practices are widely discredited and extremely harmful and have no place in any inclusive society.

“Whilst we’d like to think that they’re a thing of the past, or not happening in Scotland, we know that some LGBTQ+ people in Scotland are still being subjected to these abhorrent practices and we welcome the Scottish Government’s leadership and action on this issue.

“Our freephone helpline is staffed by a trained team who specialise in LGBTQ+ mental health and wellbeing. Callers can expect compassionate and non-judgmental support, resources to help navigate their experiences, and referrals to other support if needed.”

A Catholic Church of Scotland statement said: “While the Church supports legislation which protects people from physical and verbal abuse a fundamental pillar of any free society is that the state recognises and respects the right of religious bodies and organisations to be free to teach the fulness of their beliefs and to support, through prayer, counsel and other pastoral means, their members who wish to live in accordance with those beliefs.

“We would urge the Scottish Government, not to criminalise mainstream religious pastoral care, parental guidance, and medical or other professional intervention relating to sexual orientation, which is not approved by the State as acceptable.

“The worrying lack of clarity about what is meant by the term ‘conversion practices’ could create a chilling effect and may criminalise advice or opinion given in good faith.

“The church will now take time to consider the consultation document with a view to submitting a response in due course.”

The public consultation from the Scottish Government will run until April 2.iStock

UK charity the Christian Institute has warned the government it is prepared to “go to court” over the proposals.

Simon Calvert, deputy director, said: “We will be encouraging Christians to respond to the consultation and instructing a KC to look at the detail of the proposals.

“We are particularly worried about the Government’s plans for ‘civil protection orders’. The courts could impose draconian limits on the free speech of individuals based purely on activists’ speculation about what they might say to gay or trans people.

“Our solicitors wrote to the Government preparing the ground for judicial review in February 2022. If Parliament passes a law that tramples on basic freedom of speech and religion we are ready to go to court.”

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