NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns has pledged to put an end to LGBT conversion practices if he wins the next election, but Christian policy experts have said the proposal risks penalising foundational teaching on personhood.
“So-called conversion therapy, or suppression practices, is the formal or informal practices based on the ideology that LGBTQ+ people have a disorder or require treatment,” Mr Minns said in a media release on 11 February.
“A Minns Labor Government would prohibit the practice and will work with survivors and all other stakeholders to develop the legislation that works in NSW.”
A joint working group of NSW Health and the NSW Department of Justice would draft the laws, he said.
Equivalent legislation passed in Victoria in 2021 penalises a person who tries to suppress or change another person’s gender or sexuality with 10 years’ gaol or fines up to $10,000.
“The Catholic Church is just one voice among many. Unfortunately faith leaders and pastors, counsellors and medical professionals, lawyers and parents were all ignored.”
At the time the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, said the laws were vague and would “ultimately hurt people who should be free to ask others for help”.
“The Catholic Church is just one voice among many. Unfortunately faith leaders and pastors, counsellors and medical professionals, lawyers and parents were all ignored,” he said.
Monica Doumit, the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Director of Public Affairs and Engagement, told The Catholic Weekly that historical examples of conversion practices contrary to human dignity were not the issue in NSW.
Rather the right to teach foundational Christian teaching on the meaning of the person, marriage, gender and sexuality will be threatened by these proposals.
“The examples of conversion practices like electroshock therapy used in this debate are contrary to human dignity and so would never be supported by any serious Christian,” Ms Doumit said.
“However, these unacceptable and historical examples are often now being used as a Trojan horse for much more far-reaching laws that have the prohibition of Christian teaching on marriage, gender and sexuality as their ultimate goal.
“You only need to look at what’s happened in Victoria, where medical professionals who object to transitioning young children are threatened with de-registration and ‘prayer-based practices’ are punishable by fines and even imprisonment, to see where this leads.
“Labor needs to be clear that doctors will not be silenced and faithful Christian teaching will not be banned if it is elected in March.”
Mark Spencer, Director of Public Policy for Christian Schools Australia, said that Christians, “like the community generally”, wish to see legislation enacted to plug any loopholes that allow for coercion or abuse.
But Mr Spencer said that NSW Labor’s proposal, drawing on legislation from Victoria he described as “draconian”, would impact ordinary families, churches and community leaders.
“The NSW Labor Leader needs to clearly and unequivocally reject the Victorian approach.”
“A year on from the Victorian legislation coming into effect, there is still no clarity around what parents can say to their children about gender and sexuality, what schools can teach in these areas, how churches can pray, and how we can properly care for children and young people searching for certainty regarding their sexuality.
“The NSW Labor Leader needs to clearly and unequivocally reject the Victorian approach.
The people of NSW don’t want another Daniel Andrews telling them what they can say and how they can pray.
“Promises to establish a working group are not enough.”
Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said that banning conversion practices was a condition of his support for any future minority government.