After Queensland last week became the first Australian state to criminalise anti-LGBTQ ‘conversion therapy’, activists have criticised the new law for not going far enough.
LGBTIQ advocates have slammed the new conversion practice ban as “utterly ineffective”.
The Palaszczuk Government had promised to ban practices that attempt to convert LGBTQ people to be cisgender or heterosexual, which have been internationally derided as both cruel and pointless.
However, under pressure from anti-LGBTIQ groups, the government has only outlawed such practices by health practitioners – omitting from the ban the religious settings where the majority of conversion practice occurs.
Brisbane-based advocate and national PFLAG+ spokesperson Shelley Argent said that Queensland may be the first state to pass such a law, but it should not have bothered.
“The approach it took is uninformed and detrimental to those exposed because of the loophole allowing informal conversion practices in a religious setting,” Argent said.
“Given that almost all conversion practice is undertaken in informal religious settings and not by health professionals, this new law is next to useless.
“This legislation tries to solve what is largely a non-problem while leaving the real problem untouched.
“This is like passing a law to ban cigarette advertising but excluding tobacco companies.”
Brian Greig, spokesperson for LGBTIQ advocacy group just.equal, said the “weak” model adopted in Queensland must not set a national precedent.
“This legislation effectively includes a religious exemption, which completely undermines its purpose and misses the target,” said Greig.
“The message sent by the legislation is that informal, religious conversion practices are still okay and can be inflicted with impunity.
“As other states and territories look to ban this cruel and abusive practice, the Queensland model is a shining example of what not to do.”
Greig dismissed the claim that the legislation represents “a good first step”.
“This legislation was enacted in a rush by a state government that wants to look gay-friendly two months out from an election, but is unduly afraid of the religious right,” he said.
“As LGBTIQ Australians know from bitter experience, carve-outs allowing anti-LGBTIQ discrimination in the name of religion are almost impossible to remove from legislation, with some state discrimination exemptions still in place after forty years.”
Greig said that just.equal and others will lobby other state and territory governments to ensure higher standards are adopted than in Queensland.
Gay conversion survivor Chris Csabs agreed that most survivors have endured practices conducted in informal spaces such as religious groups or pastoral care.
“The Queensland legislation focuses on the health stuff rather than anything else, so it’s actually missing the vast majority of survivors and it’s not actually very protective at all,” said Csabs.