A bill banning gay conversion therapy is all but guaranteed to pass Victorian parliament’s upper house after three crossbench MPs indicated they will support it.
Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, Samantha Ratnam of the Greens and Andy Meddick from the Animal Justice Party confirmed on Tuesday they would back the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill in the Legislative Council.
The bill outlaws any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of conversion practices.
It also puts in place strong criminal sanctions for people who subject others to conversion practices that cause injury or serious injury, with up to 10 years’ jail for the latter.
Those who try to get around the laws by sending people to conversion practices out of the state would also face criminal sanctions and fines to a maximum of almost $10,000.
Mr Meddick, in supporting the bill, described himself as the proud father of two transgender children.
“I love them and I support them. And to all those who are detractors to this bill, I have a message: This bill will pass,” he said.
“For all of the community out there … I have another message for you: I see you, I love you and I support you.”
The bill goes further than a similar law passed in Queensland in 2020, by prohibiting harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.
It bans “carrying out a religious practice including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.
A number of religious leaders have raised issue with the bill, including Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli and Bishop Brad Billings of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
“(The bill) has some potentially serious unintended consequences in respect to fundamental human rights such as the freedom of speech, the protection of religious belief and freedom of conscience,” Bishop Billings said in a statement to AAP.
“It potentially criminalises the provision of pastoral care and may limit the ability of parents to guide their children.”
Islamic Council of Victoria vice president Adel Salman said a number of faith groups had not been consulted in the drafting of the bill.
“There’s overreach there that impinges on the rights of individuals to practice their faith freely, for people to seek guidance, for parents to parent,” he told AAP.
“Some of these things potentially could have been avoided if we had been part of genuine consultation.”
‘Inherently homophobic and wrong’
Ms Ratnam said a lot of the arguments against the bill were “inherently homophobic and wrong”.
“It’s hard to fathom that we’re even debating this matter in this parliament because it implies that there are valid arguments on either side of this debate when clearly there aren’t,” the Victorian Greens leader said.
Ms Patten, who has consulted with both religious groups and gay conversion therapy survivors, added that the legislation “hits the right balance”.
“This bill is about freedom for all, not just a selected few who feel that their religion trumps other people’s lives,” she said.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the Liberal party will form its position on the bill in a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.
The Age reports the party will not oppose the bill but will move amendments, which are doomed to fail, during Thursday’s upper house debate.