The West Australian government is moving to outlaw conversion therapy.
It’s partly in response to a disturbing parliamentary report on the now closed Esther Foundation, a Pentecostal church-run Perth drug rehab facility.
The report included allegations of psychological, coercive and conversion practices over 15 years.
The laws are yet to be drafted, but they will aim to criminalise any efforts to change or suppress an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The WA government says exemptions will apply to health professionals regulated by a professional body.
Premier Mark McGowan said: “Whilst the government is supportive of a ban on these harmful practices, we believe that accredited health professionals with relevant expertise, who provide healthcare in accordance with the law and their ethical obligations should be able to provide care for people, particularly young people.”
State Attorney-General John Quigley said while the reforms would prohibit conversion and suppression practices, the ban would not interfere with health professionals’ ability to provide suitable therapy and counselling to LGBT patients without fear of being prosecuted.
“It is appropriate that people are professionally supported when they explore their own concepts of self, others, and sexuality, and that they receive expert assessment, treatment and care when seeking to affirm gender through medical treatments such as hormone-blocking therapies or surgical procedures,” Mr Quigley said.
He didn’t believe people with medical licenses would practice conversion therapy because of the ethical constraints on their profession, but promised to keep on eye on that possibility.
Victoria, Queensland and the ACT already have anti-conversion laws while Tasmania is preparing to introduce them.
Australian Christian Lobby WA director Peter Abetz urged his state government to avoid the mistakes of Victoria.
He opposed the punishing of parents who try to dissuade a pre-pubescent child from transitioning to another gender.
Mr. Abetz called for the legislation to be framed in a way that respects religious freedom.