A Victorian government bill to ban gay conversion therapy is set to be debated on the final parliamentary sitting day of the year, as advocates ramp up pressure on MPs to put a stop to the “senseless damage”.
Gay-conversion victims and experts will speak on the steps of Victorian parliament on Thursday morning before the scheduled second reading debate on the bill in the lower house.
“The bill is a common-sense law that prevents people from causing injury to others by treating LGBTQ+ as if they were broken, ill, or in need of a cure,” Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said.
The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill outlaws any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill goes further than a similar law passed earlier this year in Queensland in that it prohibits harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.
It expressly bans “carrying out a religious practice including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.
In an open letter penned by a group of multicultural, multi-faith LGBTQ+ people and allies, all Victorian parliament members were urged to support the bill.
“It is beyond time for this senseless damage to people to stop,” the letter reads.
“We need laws that build understanding through processes that bring people and communities together.
“This bill overwhelmingly does that.”
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says his party supports the ban in principle.
However, the Liberal Nationals will move an amendment at the end of the debate to pause progress of the bill to enable consultation with religious groups over the summer break.
Mr O’Brien has highlighted concerns about the bill’s impacts on religious freedoms, but Equality Minister Martin Foley said the government wasn’t criminalising faith teachings.
It’s unlikely the amendment will pass, with Labor controlling the numbers in the Legislative Assembly.
The government has been consulting with groups on a ban since October 2019.