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by Louise Wilson
15 March 2022
MSPs overwhelmingly back gay conversion therapy ban plan

MSPs overwhelmingly back gay conversion therapy ban plan

MSPs have spoken overwhelmingly in favour of banning conversion practices which seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

All members participating in a debate this afternoon – brought by the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee – voiced support for moves to legislate to end the practice in Scotland.

It follows a petition on the matter, leading to the committee unanimously backing a recommendation to take swift action.

Equalities minister Christina McKelvie reiterated the Scottish Government’s support to end the practice by the end of 2023.

She said: “I want to end these practices once and for all, and make sure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is safe from conversion practices in Scotland.”

The minister also pledged to work with faith groups to ensure the move does not impinge on religious freedoms by inadvertently outlawing pastoral care to discuss and explore identity.

The UK Government is set to bring in its own ban on conversation therapy in England and Wales, but the minister said this plan “didn’t go far enough”. However, she added the two governments would continue to work together on the issue.

All parties represented in the chamber back the move.

Tory MSP Alexander Stewart, labelling the practice “abhorrent,” said: “It is vitally important that we sent a very strong message from this chamber to these individuals and organisations that we will not accept what has been the practice in the past.”

Several MSPs called on the government to act quickly.

Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “We have no time to lose on this. I urge colleagues across the chamber to act with impatience and to act here, in this place, to end conversion practices as soon as possible.”

And Lib Dem Willie Rennie said: “Any practice which seeks to suppress of change of persons sexual orientation or gender identity is a harmful practice, and it is quite baffling why it’s still happening in Scotland.”

The government set up an expert group on the subject last year to shape the legislation.

It has been urged to use the work of the committee to ensure evidence gathering does not further harm victims who have already spoken about their experiences.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman, who is also deputy convener of the equalities committee, said: “We need to more swiftly and we must act to bring forward a comprehensive ban via a process that does not re-traumatise victims and survivors who have already told their stories and that does not duplicate the work the committee has already undertaken.” 

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