Leaders Demand Progress on British Conversion-Therapy Ban

The Petitions Committee of the British House of Commons debated today a petition to ban conversion therapy across the United Kingdom.

Ban Conversion Therapy UK

Signed by more than 250,000 people, the petition reflects exasperation at the British government’s slow pace in banning a practice that is opposed across all leading political parties.

The debate, aired on YouTube, reflected overwhelming cross-party consensus for a British conversion therapy ban.

The opening speech by Eliot Coburn, Conservative member of parliament for Carshalton and Wallington, drew special praise among supporters.

In a British LGBT online survey of 108,000 people, Coburn said, “13 percent said they had undergone conversion therapy: 51 percent of those via church, 19 percent via mental health professionals.” The remainder were counseled by a family member.

“Now we need action,” Coburn said, “because with every day that passes there is another person at risk of being subject to this degrading treatment. On behalf of LGBT people, I say we cannot and do not need to be cured.”

MPs say conversion therapy ban overdue

All but one debater favored moving ahead with a British conversion therapy ban. Among the supporters:

  • Crispin Blunt, Conservative member of parliament, emphasized the need to include gender identity in a ban against conversion therapy. “[Trans people] are a community under siege,” Blunt said. “There is a paucity of services for them in the UK. They see 250 articles a year in the Times attacking them, groups like Conservative Women and LGB Alliance. If this legislation does not include trans people, it will send a message that their government does not want to protect them, does not value them, or accept that trans is really a thing. That awful message would make the government a party to the practice of conversion therapy.”
  • Alicia Kerns, Conservative member of parliament, said: “To the survivors of conversion therapy, and all those hurting, to all those made to feel ashamed, I say today: Love is not conditional. You do not need to change. Love is not a pathology. And it damn well doesn’t need treating.”
  • Hannah Bardell, member of Parliament and SNP member, quoted a friend. ‘It is not until age 35 that I have the strength to address treatment. It cost me most of my teen years and my 20s. From age 12, conversion therapy began a more than a decade of self-hatred.”
  • Stephen Doughty, Labour/Co-op member of Parliament, spoke for LGBT people of faith. “I’m gay, I am Christian, god created me, god loves me and I love god.” Doughty reflected on his conversation with a therapist: “I don’t want to have a sham heterosexual marriage,” he said. They replied, “You don’t have to, Stephen.” Doughty asked the debate, “What if there were more therapists like that who spared us such coercion?”
  • Labour Member of Parliament Charlotte Nichols agreed. “We have waited long enough. Putting laws on the statute books … would make concrete legal protections available to people who need it.”

Soaring public support

Kirsten Oswald is a Scottish member of Parliament and Scottish National Party deputy leader. She spoke of exponential growth in public support for a conversion-therapy ban.

“When I looked into the background to today’s debate, I was struck by the number of signatures on the petition that closed in September last year, compared to two previous petitions on the same subject in 2017 and 2018. Across the UK, the number of signatures increased over sevenfold from 2017 to last year’s quarter of a million signatures in my constituency of East Renfrewshire.

“That upswing in signatures tells us two things: First, that there is a growing welcome recognition of the need to tackle this wholly unacceptable practice. … And the second reason for the upswing in support for the petition could very well be a growing frustration that action is taking so long. So, this [government] determination to do more research three years on, really doesn’t look like a process of implementing change. It looks more like an attempt to stave off change, and that’s not OK.”

The government resists

The debate’s sole opponent of swift action was Equalities minister and Conservative member of Parliament Kemi Badenoch. Speaking for the government, Badenoch assured petitioners that the government supports a ban… but then repeated previous stalling tactics.

“Acknowledging that conversion therapy is wrong, is only the first step,” Badenoch said. “We must capture the spectrum of these harmful practices. Offenders must be prosecuted. We must end these practices, not hide them.” Badenoch promised further research and legal study. “We are in conversation with international counterparts about legislative and non-legislative solutions. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Via Twitter, Doughty reacted to the government’s official response: “Deeply disappointing, weak response from Minister @KemiBadenoch full of excuses.” The Petitions Committee recommended that the petition to ban conversion therapy be considered in the future by the House of Commons.

Born Perfect is a survivor-led program created by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in 2014 to end conversion therapy by passing laws across the country that protect LGBTQ children and young people, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. https://bornperfect.org

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