At the end of last week, the NSW Government announced that it would not table its bill seeking to ban so-called conversion practices before the end of the year. Instead, the government will wait and continue its consultation, with the aim of introducing a bill early in 2024. The pause is welcome, because the proposals put forward to date are anti-faith, anti-freedom and child endangering.
The proposed ban on “suppression practices” is essentially a ban on counselling a person towards any type of sexual restraint. Any action, be it a parent telling their child that sex before marriage is not permitted, a counsellor telling a married man that he should not cheat on his wife, or a priest advising a Catholic woman who is divorced and civilly remarried that she should live as brother and sister with her new husband—all these could be the subject of fines or imprisonment, public apologies or mandatory “re-education.” The proposed ban on “suppression practices” is essentially a ban on Christian sexual morality and its inclusion in any legislation put forward next year would be an indication of an anti-faith mentality.
Proposals have also been put forward that say that consent is irrelevant when it comes to conversion or suppression practices. What this means is that even if a person voluntarily asks for help or advice from a priest or a psychologist or a friend, the priest or psychologist or friend can still be in legal trouble if they provide that help or advice.
So, say a person experiencing same-sex attraction goes to a priest and says, “I identify as gay, but my Catholic identity is more important to me than my sexual identity, and so can you please pray that I will have the grace to live in accordance with the Catholic teaching on human sexuality.” The priest would have to refuse the prayer request if he wanted to avoid breaking the law.
Treating consent as irrelevant is tantamount the state saying: “If you want to live in accordance with your sexual identity, you can ask anyone for help, and we will punish anyone who refuses to support you. If you want to live in accordance with your religious identity, you cannot ask anyone for help, and we will punish anyone who tries to support you.”
If the bill presented to parliament in the new year does not take a person’s ability to consent into consideration, the bill will not only be anti-faith but anti-freedom too, because it would have the effect of the State dictating to a person which aspect of their identity is allowed to take priority in their own life.
Then we move on to the proposal that seeking to change or suppress a person’s gender identity be included in these bans. Gender-affirmative treatment, particularly for children, is a highly-contested space. While Australian states seem to be using puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones as “standard care” for children with gender dysphoria, other countries are pulling on the brakes. Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare has prohibited the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery on children, saying that the risks of these treatments are likely to outweigh their benefits. The Norwegian Healthcare Investigation Board described research into gender-affirming treatment as “deficient,” noted the long-term effects of their use are unknown and recommended that the use of gender-affirming treatment for kids be labelled as experimental, while the UK has limited the use of puberty blockers to research scenarios only.
Notwithstanding the increasing concern over the unknown, long-term risks that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones pose to kids, there seems to be a complete unwillingness on the part of politicians and political bureaucrats to remove gender identity from the scope of these laws. If the bill ultimately presented to parliament next year includes references to gender identity, it will be a sign that its proponents are more concerned about gender ideology than child safety.
The delay of the conversion practices bill must not be seen by any of our MPs as a time to rest: they should use the extension of time to consider carefully the implications for faith, freedom and child safety of the proposals put forward so far.
Nor should we treat it as a time of rest: if you haven’t done so already, please make sure you let your local MP that this is an issue of concern for you. The easiest way to do this is by going to https://contactyourmp.org.au/.