Backbenchers, tired of government delays, propose conversion therapy bill

Cross-party backbenchers have come together to draft legislation to ban so-called conversion therapy, after continued government delays. 

A ban on conversion therapy was first promised by Theresa May’s government in 2018 but since then subsequent prime minister’s have sought to drop the bill’s progress and backtracked on the ban being trans-inclusive.

Drafted by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle and seen exclusively by ITV News, the bill aims to “prohibit practices” which purpose is to “change or suppress a person’s sexuality, or change or suppress a person to or from being transgender”. 

The private members’ bill is expected to be debated on Wednesday (6 December) and has support from within the Conservative party, including chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Caroline Nokes and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns. 

Private members’ bills are public bills introduced by MPs and Lords who are not government ministers, only a small minority of them become law however.

“Some of the biggest social reforms in this country have happened via private members’ bills. I was overwhelmed with support from all sides of the House for this reform,” Russell-Moyle told ITV News.  

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“Too many have suffered for too long; we have a responsibility to ensure no one else must suffer from this practice.”

Nokes added many countries have already fully banned conversion therapy and the backbenchers will “be reflecting on those examples to make sure we get our ban right”.

“The bill will contain the appropriate safeguards for legitimate forms of therapy, but trying to ‘cure’ someone from being LGBT is abuse, and we must outlaw it,” she said. 

Speaking with PinkNews, gay Christian, former government equalities advisor and conversion therapy survivor Jayne Ozanne commended the cross-party MPs working together on the issue: “I am so grateful to Lloyd Russell-Moyle for tabling this critically important Private Members Bill and to the large number of Tory MPs who have decided to stand tall and defy their government’s inaction.  

“It is, I think, unprecedented for the Chair of the Women & Equalities Select Committee, Caroline Nokes MP, to agree to cosponsor a Labour MP’s bill, a fact that I hope the Prime Minister will carefully reflect on.  

“Nothing should get in the way of protecting young LGBT+ lives, as these MPs all know.”

Robbie de Santos, director of external affairs at Stonewall said in a statement: “It’s a matter of great national shame that the UK Government has failed to keep its long-held promise to protect LGBTQ+ people from conversion therapy – and clearly, this is something politicians from all parties can agree on.

“This united, cross-party effort sends a clear political signal that allowing the abuse of LGBTQ+ people to continue is unacceptable, and that this is not an issue that will go away.”

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