Equalities minister promises UK conversion therapy ban will cover trans people and religious abuse

Tory equalities minister Mike Freer.

Tory equalities minister Mike Freer has signalled that a UK conversion therapy ban will protect trans people and cover religious practices.

A consultation document on banning conversion therapy produced by the government last year raised significant concerns when it proposed religious exemptions, exemptions for “consenting adults”, and alarming wording surrounding trans people.

The document referred to attempts to convert a person “from not being transgender to being transgender”, and even alluded to the anti-trans talking point that trans children will be pushed to go down a “clinical pathway” which “might result in an irreversible decision”.

In January, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a response to the government’s proposed ban, calling for a ban on conversion therapy performed specifically on trans people to be delayed until further research could be carried out.

But on Wednesday (2 March), MP and equalities minster Mike Freer said that a conversion therapy ban would cover religious practices and all LGBT+ people, insisting: “There is no LGBT without the T.”

Freer made the promise in a letter to Jayne Ozanne, director of the Ozanne Foundation and a former member of the government’s LGBT+ Advisory Panel.

He wrote: “I can reassure you that protecting all LGBT people will be at the heart of this legislation… For me there is no LGBT without the T.

“We want to ensure that everyone is protected from the extensive harm that conversion therapy practices cause victims.

“I can also confirm that the ban will apply regardless of the setting in which it is carried out, and regardless of who carries it out.”

Government proposals, he said, mean that people “will still be able to access support and counsel from religious leaders”, but that any activity “carried out with the intention of changing a person’s sexual orientation or changing them from or to being transgender will be captured”.

Freer added: “We do not consider practices carried out with this intent to be everyday religious practices.”

In a statement to PinkNews, Ozanne said: “I am reassured to hear that the government will ensure all LGBT people will be covered by the forthcoming ban on ‘conversion therapy’, and that this will most definitely cover religious practices.

“As the minister makes clear, these are not ‘everyday religious practices’ but are clearly harmful and must be outlawed.

“Those wishing to continue with this spiritual abuse have been put on notice that their actions will no longer be tolerated and that they will face the full weight of the law. That said, we still have major concerns about the loophole of supposed ‘consent’, which we continue to press the government on.”

Having promised to ban the debunked practice, often compared to torture, in 2018, the Conservative party finally produced a proposal for banning conversion therapy in October last year.

Following a six-week consultation, which was later extended by a further eight weeks, the government finally promised to bring a a draft ban to parliament in spring 2022.