Victoria has taken the first step towards banning gay conversion therapy, with the Attorney-General introducing legislation to ban the “cruel and bigoted” practice on Wednesday. It’s set to become the third state in Australia to explicitly outlaw conversion therapy.
Under the proposed new laws, people who attempt to administer conversion therapy to queer people could get slapped with a fine of up to $10,000, and up to two years in jail.
“We’re sending a clear message: no one is ‘broken’ because of their sexuality or gender identity,” Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said in a statement on Wednesday.
“These views won’t be tolerated in Victoria, and neither will these abhorrent practices.”
Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities Ro Allen added: “The importance of this reform for our LGBTIQ+ communities cannot be overstated – it will save lives.”
The Victorian government said the response will be “survivor-led and trauma-informed”, empowering the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) to respond to any reports of conversion therapy or similar sexuality suppression practices, and to investigate more deeply if need be.
During the consultation process, many survivors of conversion therapy or sexuality suppression practices came forward with stories of felling broken and depressed from their experiences in the church.
This morning, the Victorian Government introduced a Bill to outlaw LGBTQ+ conversion practices. These harmful and damaging practices that attempt to change or suppress a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation will be prohibited by the Bill. pic.twitter.com/LC7E4zECzm
— Equality Australia ???? (@EqualityAu) November 24, 2020
“My therapist constantly told me God would abandon me for this terrible sin,” said one woman, who was married with five children.
“The pressure led me to attempt to take my life.”
One survivor even said he internalised the beliefs to the point that when teenagers came to him as a youth group leader with questions about their own sexuality, he told them their sexuality was sinful, despite being gay himself.
The law will also see survivors receive support from the VEOHRC.
Banning conversion therapy in Victoria has been a long time coming, with Premier Dan Andrews calling it “bigoted quackery” back in early 2019. However, the coronavirus pandemic had stalled the process until now.
Along the way, there’s unfortunately been resistance from the usual suspects like the Australian Christian Lobby, which even held a forum about the ban and is particularly upset that religious leaders won’t be able to pull this shit on young trans kids anymore.
Despite this, the Victorian government said the legislation was developed not only with consultation from survivors and queer groups, but also with different faith-based organisations as well.
While the legislation was introduced today, we’ll have to wait until early next year for it to become law because the just aren’t enough sitting weeks left in 2020.