Christian politician Gordon Ramsay fought back tears as he spoke about encountering survivors of conversion therapy as a religious minister.
The Australian Capital Territory, home to 400,000 people and Australia’s capital city Canberra, followed the lead of Queensland on Thursday (27 August) by passing a law to ban ‘treatments’ attempting to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The change, agreed to by a narrow 12-9 vote with opposition from the Liberal Party, was championed by ACT attorney general Gordon Ramsay, who is also a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Supporting the bill in the ACT legislative assembly, Ramsay made clear: “There is an insidious and clandestine manner in which these practices are carried out, mostly against children. It is a form of abuse. It is a profound violation of human rights, and criminal sanctions ought to apply.”
Gordon Ramsay fights back tears as he recalls encounters with conversion therapy survivors.
Ramsay continued: “You will be aware that I’m a person of faith, and I remain a minister in a Christian denomination.
“I am by no means the only person of faith here. There are people of different faiths and have no particular faith on both sides of this chamber, but my experience does bring a particular perspective.
“I have led congregations and communities of faith, where people have sought refuge after being subjected to conversion therapy that has been done in the name of the church – and even at times in the name of God.”
Fighting back tears, he continued: “These stories are not mine to tell, but I can assure members that they are painful, and they are traumatic. Needless to say they are experiences that we as a society, including faith institutions who comprise an important part of this society, must strive to avoid in the future.”
Ramsay added: “It is self evidently true that Christian faith and other faiths do not require an understanding of sexuality and gender that lead to simplistic binary perspectives.
“People of faith can and do hold the view that their values and their faith leads them to an opposition of conversion practices, in support of this bill.
“For people to claim that holding a faith should lead us to oppose this bill is particularly disingenuous.
“I would certainly hope that no one in this place has done anything that has supported or fostered such an inaccurate and abusive position.
“This bill is about protecting our most vulnerable. It is carefully considered. It is a human rights-compatible bill. I believe that that affirms the rights and the values that this community upholds and wishes to embed even more now and into the future.”
Conversion therapy survivors celebrate passage of landmark bill
Hailing the passage of the bill, conversion therapy survivor Chris Csabs of support group SOGICE Survivors said: “In passing this law, the ACT government has sent a strong message that conversion practices, whether performed by a health professional, a religious leader or any other person, are not to be tolerated.”
Nathan Despott from Brave Network added: “This law is ground-breaking as the first Australian example of legislation that successfully separates pseudoscientific conversion ideology from legitimate religious theology, rejecting the myth that the damaging and misleading claims at the heart of conversion practices are a core part of religious tradition.
The two groups said in a release: “The law prohibits conversion practices that occur in both formal and informal contexts, whether paid or unpaid, for both children and adults, focusing on the intent of the ‘practitioner’.
“It covers LGBT+ people – not just one or two segments of the community – and includes a powerful and unprecedented affirmation of the psychological equality of LGBT+ individuals.
“Brave Network and SOGICE Survivors look forward to continuing their work with LGBT+ and religious communities in the ACT, growing awareness and developing responses to the proliferation of conversion ideology in our nation’s capital.
“We also encourage other Australian jurisdictions to make use of the lived experience and expertise of survivors when forming their own, hopefully even more effective, strategies for combating LGBT+ conversion practices, so that Australia truly can be a world leader in change for equality.”
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