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Britain vows new law to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ people

The British government said it will soon publish draft legislation to ban the practice of trying to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQ+ campaigners join Gay Liberation Front veterans in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first UK Pride march
LGBTQ activists join Gay Liberation Front veterans in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first UK Pride march in London on July 1.Mark Kerrison / In Pictures via Getty Images file

LONDON — Britain will seek to ban conversion therapy targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, cracking down on so-called treatments that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Culture minister Michelle Donelan said on Tuesday the government would publish draft legislation soon, setting out proposals to ban conversion practices in England and Wales.

“The Bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender,” Donelan said in a statement.

Conversion practices, which may include extreme or harmful methods, are aimed at suppressing or preventing a person from being gay or existing as a gender different from the sex recorded at birth. A 2017 national LGBTQ survey people found that 5% of respondents had been offered conversion therapy and 2% had undergone it, with over half of it done by religious groups.

The British government said in 2021 it would introduce a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ people to prevent “abhorrent practices which can cause mental and physical harm,” but later decided the ban would only cover lesbian, gay or bisexual people.

Donelan said on Tuesday the draft legislation will aim to cover transgender people as well, and that the government will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill by a joint committee.

Many advocates have long called for a ban on conversion therapy, but others have argued that any ban should not outlaw conversations with clinicians or therapists helping people with gender issues.

“The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalizing or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children,” Donelan said.

Over two dozen health and counseling groups signed an updated memorandum of understanding last year, agreeing that “conversion therapy, whether in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, is unethical and potentially harmful.”

Separately, Britain said on Monday it would block a bill passed by Scotland’s devolved parliament that makes it easier for people to change their legal gender.