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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Anti-conversion therapy law passes in ACT

The ACT become the second jurisdiction nationally to ban gay conversion therapy today, when a Bill was passed through the Legislative Assembly this afternoon.

The legislation was first tabled on 13 August and means the ACT Human Rights Commission will handle all complaints on conversion practices, leading to criminal or remedial action, and up to a $24,000 fine.

A Gender Agenda executive director Sel Cooper welcomed the legislation with open arms, despite admitting public discourse on the topic had been challenging to listen to.

“It’s been hard listening to it to be honest; some of the debate was difficult to hear. It’s fabulous that it’s gone through,” they said. 

“The support the people have put in to get this across the line is remarkable. Canberra is a progressive place and these sorts of things prove it.”

Meridian (formerly the AIDS Action Council of the ACT) CEO Philippa Moss also showed her support of the Bill, saying it meant more than legislation.

“It shows Canberra has a progressive government that has adopted this legislation which states LGBTIQA+ people are not disordered and are okay the way they are,” she said.

“The other thing it does is gives powers to the Human Rights Commission to investigate under all sorts of circumstances which makes it all the more powerful.”

The Bill also enables those found using conversion practices to face a jail term of up to 12 months.

A last-minute amendment was made to the Bill this morning, stating the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religious freedom.

Christian Schools Australia (CSA) expressed their dismay over the passing of the bill, after previously submitting concerns about the Bill and religious freedoms.

“When the ACT Assembly passes bad legislation, it is a bad day for Canberra; today was a very bad day for Canberra,” CSA director of public policy, Mark Spencer, said.

“The rejection of amendments that would have clearly protected parents, teachers and people of faith across the ACT reinforces concerns about the real purpose of this Bill.

“Instead of a Bill addressing coercive or abusive practices, which everyone would support, we have legislation that could put mums and dads across Canberra in jail.”

The ACT Law Society had also stated their concerns over the criminal offence element of the legislation, but stated it was unlikely criminal prosecutions would be enacted.

“I don’t think we are going to see grandparents charged but that isn’t because it is great law but because of the gatekeeper we have in the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions,” Criminal Law Committee chair, Michael Kukulies-Smith, said.

“Our concern is more around the anxieties and uncertainties this will create but we aren’t expecting people will be called before the courts.”

Michael Kukulies-Smith stated the ACT Law Society was in full support of the policy’s intent. 

The Bill is set to come into effect in six months’ time.

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