Government double-U-turns on conversion therapy ban

1 April 2022

Yesterday evening, the government’s plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’ took a surprising turn as ITV’s Paul Brand leaked plans suggesting that the government was no longer going to legislate a ban.

At 5.45pm, Paul Brand, a prominent campaigner on the topic, revealed leaked photographs of government documents suggesting that it had changed its mind and would not pursue legislation to ban conversion therapy.

After a raft of pro-ban campaigners and MPs responded furiously, they appear to have successfully changed the Prime Minister’s mind.

Under four hours later, Paul Brand – again – reported the ‘double-U-turn’, claiming that the government would once again pursue legislation, but only to ban therapy relating to sexual orientation – not gender identity.

‘Weak evidence’ for further legislative measures

The leaked documents demonstrate the reasoning behind the government’s original decision. It states that the government’s own commissioned research has shown that “the evidence-base for further legislative measures on conversion therapy is weak.”

Nikki da Costa, Former Director of Legislative Affairs at 10 Downing Street posted a Twitter thread outlining some of the likely reasons behind the government’s initial decision.  James Esses, CEO of Thoughtful Therapists likewise shared his concerns.

Although the new promise of legislation only to cover sexual orientation may appease some gender-critical campaigners, members of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition remain furious at the suggestion that gender identity has been removed from the government’s plans.

Church leaders call for clarification

In the light of this confusion, a group of church leaders wrote to the Prime Minister asking for “urgent clarification” of what the government now intended to do and reminding him that a poorly drafted law would make it “illegal for us to teach people and help people of every age to live according to the Christian understanding of marriage.”

The authors of this letter were initial signatories of a previous letter, signed by over 2,500 ministers, saying that, if necessary, they would “do [their] duty to God” by disobeying such a law and risk criminalisation.

What next?

The House of Commons is in recess over Easter until 19 April. If rumours are true, the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday 10 May will announce the new plans to ban conversion therapy.

Whatever is announced, the problems remain: the definitions are inadequate, human rights will be breached and there is no evidence that a ban will help anyone. There is no need for a ban and Christians must continue to oppose it.

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