UK government to outlaw gay ‘cure’ therapy

The government has vowed to pursue all options to outlaw gay ‘cure’ therapy in the UK.

In an action plan released today (June 3), Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt set out a firm stance against the discredited practise of conversion therapy.

It is currently legal for unregulated persons and faith groups to attempt to ‘cure’ people of homosexuality in the UK, though the practice is banned on the NHS under a voluntary ‘Memorandum of Understanding’.

Following a survey that showed seven percent of LGBT people had been offered or undergone gay ‘cure’ therapy, the government today vowed to clamp down on the practise.

(File photo)

The government action plan states: “We will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. These activities are wrong, and we are not willing to let them continue.

“We will fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.

“Our intent is protect people who are vulnerable to harm or violence, whether that occurs in a medical, commercial or faith- based context. ”

Speaking to PinkNews, Penny Mordaunt confirmed faith groups would not be excluded from the ban.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt England. (Eleanor Riley/Getty)

She said: “We don’t want to hamper religious freedom, but that is very different from processes and practises that intimidate people, that make people feel bad about who they are, who either coerce or force them to go through a particular so-called treatment.

“We will not have any qualms about tackling those appalling practises wherever they arise.”

The move represents an about-turn on the government’s previous position, having suggested that a legal ban on gay therapy was unworkable. Tory peer Lord Black of Brentwood previously led backbench efforts on the issue.

Fundamentalist Christian groups have vowed to oppose the change

The Core Issues Trust, a faith-based gay ‘cure’ group, issued a statement via lobbying group Christian Concern accusing the government of “discriminating against ex-gays”, and “[persecuting] viewpoints that reject the normalisation of homosexuality and gender mainstreaming.”

The Action Plan makes several other key commitments to LGBT rights.

It also pledges to appoint a national LGBT health adviser, noting: “One in five trans respondents said that their specific needs had been ignored or not taken into account. The adviser will focus on reducing the heath inequalities that LGBT people face, and ways to improve the care LGBT people receive when accessing the NHS and public health services”

The government has also vowed to “work with the police to improve the response to LGBT hate incidents” and invest in programmes that tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

It added that it will ensure Relationships and Sex Education “will support all pupils, whatever their developing sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Penny Mordaunt (Eleanor Riley/Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT people.

“I was struck by just how many respondents said they cannot be open about their sexual orientation or avoid holding hands with their partner in public for fear of a negative reaction. No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love.

“This LGBT action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBT people face.”

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said: “Everyone in this country should feel safe and happy to be who they are, and to love who they love, without judgement or fear.

“I am incredibly proud of the UK’s global leadership on LGBT equality and the fact that this is the largest survey of its kind, but many of the results are very disturbing.

“It’s unacceptable that people feel they cannot hold hands with their partner in public, and that they are unable to walk down the street without fear of abuse. It is also deeply worrying that LGBT people experience difficulty accessing public services such as healthcare, and that so many are being offered the abhorrent practise of conversion therapy.

“This Government has done much to promote a diverse, tolerant society and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – but it is clear we have more to do.

“Our Action Plan is a step towards everyone – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics – being able to live safe, happy and healthy lives where they can be themselves without fear of discrimination. It will mark a culture change to allow LGBT people to feel respected at every level of society.”

Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive at LGBT Foundation said: “We worked closely with the Government Equalities Office to help develop the National LGBT Survey and we encouraged as many LGBT people as possible to respond.

“We are delighted that the Government has listened. The proposed Action Plan outlines the concrete steps it will take to address some of the challenges still facing LGBT communities in this country.

“LGBT people continue to face significant health inequalities and we welcome the Government’s commitment to tackling these through the appointment of an LGBT Health Adviser.

“We hope that today’s plan is a clear statement of the Government’s commitment to work in partnership with the LGBT charity sector to achieve a fair and equal society where all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people can achieve their full potential.”

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall said: “These findings reflect what many LGBT people already know, that there’s still a long way to go until we reach full equality.

“The simple act of holding hands is something all same-sex couples do with a high degree of caution. Attitudes have changed but there are still pockets of society where we’re far from safe.

“We’re really pleased that the Government is listening to the thousands upon thousands of LGBT people who responded to this survey and are investing funds in areas where LGBT people face some of the harsher inequalities, such as health care.

“We now need people in all of Britain’s communities to also come out for LGBT equality and to stand up against the hate and abuse we face daily. Our recent research has shown that LGBT people who are also discriminated against due to their faith, race or disability experience alarming levels of abuse, from across all sectors of society, including within LGBT communities. We all have a part to play in creating a society where every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person is accepted without exception.”

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: “he Government’s commitment to introducing a ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’, as well as its wider reforms to advance LGBT equality are hugely welcome.

“We cannot achieve true equality and respect for LGBT rights whilst harmful, prejudiced, and discriminatory practices are permitted to take place, regardless of where those practices are occuring.

“The right to manifest one’s religious beliefs, whether they be prejudiced or not, is limited by law if such manifestation damages either the health or morals of society, or if it infringes upon the rights of others. “Conversion therapy” most certainly infringes upon all three.”

The report makes no reference to LGBT rights in Northern Ireland, despite calls for the UK government to intervene in the region following the collapse of the devolved power-sharing government.