Boris Johnson ditches conversion therapy ban in shameful U-turn

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen wearing a white shirt, light blue tie and darker blue suit jacket while walking outside

Boris Johnson has ditched his long-promised conversion therapy ban.

ITV News reported that an official briefing document confirms Johnson “has agreed we should not move forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy”.

This is despite a ban on the practice being announced in the Queen’s Speech last year, and the government running a major consultation on the issue.

A government spokesperson confirmed: “Having explored this sensitive issue in great depth the government has decided to proceed by reviewing how existing law can be deployed more effectively to prevent this in the quickest way possible, and explore the use of other non-legislative measures.”

Theresa May first promised to outlaw the practice in 2018.

The leaked document suggests the U-turn will be announced in May’s Queen’s Speech, and that the Ukraine war could be used as justification.

“This will allow us to position the decision as prioritising our legislative programme, and reduces the risk of looking like we have singled out an LGBT issue,” it reads, according to ITV News.

“Given the unprecedented circumstances of major pressures on cost of living and the crisis in Ukraine, there is an urgent need to rationalise our legislative programme.”

It appears that the change in direction has come from Johnson. It is understood that the equalities minister Liz Truss and her Equalities Office were not involved in the decision.

Foreign Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss at the Conservative Party Conference

Foreign Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss at the Conservative Party Conference. (AFP via Getty/ OLI SCARFF)

“While Liz is not ideologically committed to the legislation she is likely to be concerned about owning the new position, having personally committed to delivering the Bill,” the document reportedly states.

Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner who quit the government’s since-disbanded LGBT Advisory Panel over its treatment of LGBT+ people, said in a statement: “The prime minister has shown scant regard for the lives of LGBT+ people in this callous decision, which leaves us with little option but to conclude that his word cannot be trusted.

“This is by far the most significant betrayal of trust that the LGBT+ community has experienced in years and flies in the face of all the commitments that he, his ministers and other senior Tory MPs have made.

“It is incredulous to believe that he has backtracked on such a promise, particularly given the clear evidence of significant harm to vulnerable LGBT+ people highlighted in his own government’s research.”

Just weeks ago, on March 4, equalities minister Mike Freer promised that a conversion therapy ban would be forthcoming, and that it would cover religious practices and all LGBT+ people.

It’s believed Freer was not aware of the prime minister’s plan to drop a legislative ban.

Theresa May first promised to outlaw conversion therapy in 2018. After she resigned as prime minister, in May 2019, talk of a ban went quiet for well over a year.

In June 2020, Liz Truss confirmed the government had commissioned research on the “vile, abhorrent practice”, and in July of that year Johnson promised legislation.

“On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that’s absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilised society, has no place in this country,” he said.

However the government continued to drag its feet. In April 2021 it disbanded its LGBT Advisory Panel after Ozanne and other members quit citing a “hostile environment for LGBT+ people” among ministers. This was quickly followed with the announcement of a public consultation.

After delays and extensions this was undertaken in October 2021, but the proposal was shot with loopholes which would permit “consenting” adults to undergo conversion therapy (experts say consent is not possible in such a scenario) and had religious carve-outs.