Government set to ditch conversion therapy ban after ‘intense’ lobbying by anti-trans MP

Rishi Sunak Miriam Cates conversion therapy ban

British prime minister Rishi Sunak is expected to row back on a long-delayed trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban, after “intense” lobbying by anti-trans Tory MP Miriam Cates. 

Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge and an evangelical Christian who is known for teaming up with Labour MP Rosie Duffield to push back against trans rights, has been at the forefront of lobbying fellow Tory MPs in order to get the ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices dropped.

Theresa May first promised to outlaw the harmful practice while prime minister, five years ago, but a ban that includes trans people has not materialised, with Tory inaction sparking condemnation from MPs, charities and LGBTQ+ activists. 

Conversion therapy refers to efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in a bid to “cure” them. 

In a text message shared by ITV’s Paul Brand, Cates urged Tory MPs to sign a letter if they agree that the Conversion Therapy Bill should not proceed. Brand described Cates’ lobbying against the ban as “intense”.

“This Bill will anger our base, split the party and effectively put a Stonewall charter into law. We have a matter of days to persuade No 10 to pull it,” Cates wrote.

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Cates’ message comes after reports earlier this week that Sunak will include a draft bill banning the practice in the King’s Speech on 5 November, which Cates called “extremely concerning”. 

According to the Times, chief whip Simon Hart had warned the PM that the Tory government would face backlash if it failed to introduced the Bill, which is believed to be inclusive of trans people.

However, mere days later, Sunak is reportedly set to kick the ban “into the long grass” after more than 40 MPs signed Cates’ letter demanding he ditch the draft Bill in the King’s Speech, according to the Sun on Sunday.

The prime minister will “kick the can down the road” by publishing a draft Bill that he will then consult MPs on, a practice known as pre-legislative scrutiny, meaning the Bill would not become law until after the next general election.

In the leaked text message, Cates said the bill would have “terrible unintended consequences, potentially criminalising parents and doctors who counsel children against ‘changing gender’”. 

“There is no way conversion therapy is becoming law before the election,” a government source told The Sun, while another said, as reported by the Independent: “It is not in the King’s Speech. No one is running at this.”

The Observer used its Sunday editorial to warn against a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy, claiming that banning the practice could pose a risk to children’s welfare and see therapists criminalised.

LGBT Humanists, however, argue that conversion therapy can cause severe and long-lasting psychological distress, and a ban would not affect the ability of children to access talking therapies.

LGBT Humanists coordinator Nick Baldwin told PinkNews: “This discredited and harmful practice can result in lasting mental scars, self-harm, and even suicide.

“We believe that when people are experiencing such extreme distress over their sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be met with person-centred, therapeutically well-grounded support. 

“They should not face coercive, medically-worthless practices that seek to push them in a particular direction. This in no way denies or discourages young people from seeking significant talking therapy about their sexual orientation or gender identity with a qualified professional.”

Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition chair Jayne Ozanne took to X to highlighted a YouGov poll which shows the majority of the public want conversion therapy to be banned.

Ozanne told PinkNews: “It is clear that the Tories have no understanding of the harm they are inflicting on LGBT+ people by their numerous U-turns on promises to ban ‘conversion therapy’. 

“The only thing they have definitely achieved over the past five years is to empower perpetrators to act with impunity. At least Labour understand the importance of a fully inclusive ban and as such have the backs of the LGBT+ community.” 

Tory backbencher Cates has also demanded a full ban on trans students’ gender identity being recognised in school, ahead of the government’s new education guidance being published.

She has also made clear that she does not want children to socially transition at school at all, with or without the knowledge or consent of parents. 

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