Councillor takes overdue Northern Ireland conversion therapy ban into his own hands

Patrick Brown Alliance Party conversion therapy

Northern Irish councillor Patrick Brown is bringing a motion forward calling for conversion therapy to be banned in the territory.

The Newry Mourne and Down district councillor’s motion will be debated on Wednesday evening (7 April), and will call for the council to recognise that anti-LGBT+ discrimination “still occurs today”.

Brown’s motion calls on the council to publicly oppose “the harm caused to our LGBT+ community in the past through the denial of rights and equal treatment” .

It continues: “This council acknowledges and stands against the ongoing harm the practice of conversion therapy brings to LGBT+ people.”

If passed, the motion will call on Northern Ireland’s minister of communities to work with the ministers of health and justice to introduce “an effective ban on conversion therapy within Northern Ireland, supported by a programme of work to help tackle these practices in all their forms”.

It would also compel the council to “highlight and promote the continued support, counselling and advocacy our local groups provide to members of the LGBT+ community”.

Sharing the motion on Facebook, Brown called on his colleagues in the Newry Mourne and Down council to join him in supporting “increased protection for LGBTQ+ individuals”.

“The abhorrent practice of ‘conversion therapy’ is nothing short of a form of torture and, frankly, it is shocking that it still exists in this day and age.”

He said a ban on the practice will be “yet another step towards creating a shared and equal society for the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland”.

Brown added: “We as locally elected reps must show leadership on this, especially when other politicians in power spew such a hateful narrative.

“I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and I hope to see a similar commitment from other NMD councillors when this motion is voted upon.”

Northern Ireland ministers have committed to banning conversion therapy

Conversion therapy is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, meaning it will advance its own legislation to ban the harmful practice.

Ministers in Northern Ireland first committed to banning conversion therapy in September 2020. In March, the department for communities said it is developing a “sexual orientation strategy” that will consider the issue.

The strategy will examine what penalties should be put in place for conversion therapy practitioners, and is due to be published before the end of this year.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Sammy Wilson came under fire in March when he expressed opposition to a ban on conversion therapy in an email to a constituent.

“I feel that those who wish to avail themselves of conversion therapy and those who wish to practice it should be allowed to do so,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson said he does not know of any conversion therapy practitioners who “force their views on anyone”.

Meanwhile, the UK government’s equalities office has committed to outlawing the practice in England, Scotland and Wales – but legislative plans have not yet been brought forward.