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UK government abandons plans to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy

The decision has been described as a "despicable and outrageous betrayal of the LGBT+ community."

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude; Image: Wiki Commons

Update – 31 March 2022, 22:39: ITV’s Paul Brand reports that the goverment has reinstated plans to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy following Thursday’s furious backlash, but will not ban ‘conversion’ therapy for transgender people.

The government has abandoned plans to ban gay ‘conversion’ therapy in the UK, a leaked document shows.

An official briefing, seen by ITV News, says that prime minister Boris Johnson has decided not to outlaw the abusive practice, which seeks to change or alter someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity and has been widely debunked by health organisations and medical experts.

The Downing Street document, entitled ‘Conversion Therapy Handling Plan’, states: “The PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation to ban LGBT conversion therapy.”

The briefing concedes that there will be a “noisy backlash from LGBT groups and some parliamentarians when we announce we do not intend to proceed.”

It adds that “the LGBT sector will read this decision as a signal the government is uninterested in LGBT issues”, before reportedly outlining how to minimise the fallout from the decision.

In recent months the government had been accused of dragging its feet over banning gay ‘conversion’ therapy, which was first promised by Theresa May in 2018, backed again by Boris Johnson in 2020, and was included in The Queen’s Speech last year.

The leaked briefing details how the government could respond to criticism of its decision to drop the plans, including citing “unprecedented circumstances” such as “cost of living” and “the crisis in Ukraine”.

It adds that some senior goverment ministers involved in designing a ban have not yet been informed that the plans have been dropped, including Equalities Minister Liz Truss.

The document reads: “While Liz is not ideologically committed to the legislation she is likely to be concerned about owning the new position, having personally committed to delivering the Bill.”

The news comes just a day after Equalities Minister Mike Freer, who is gay, told parliament that the government remained “wholly committed” to banning gay ‘conversion’ therapy.

The leaked memo warns that both Freer and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on LGBT issues, Lord Herbert, may resign over U-turn.

Th news has been met with outrage from LGBTQ groups, with veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell describing the decision as “a despicable and outrageous betrayal of the LGBT+ community.”

“The Government promised a ban nearly four years ago and reiterated this commitment in the Queen’s Speech last year. We feel lied to and tricked,” said Tachell in a statement.

“The Prime Minister seems to have taken a decision to appease religious homophobes who practice abusive and harmful conversion therapy, rather than protect the welfare and human rights of vulnerable LGBTs.

“This is another broken promise by the government. It’s more proof that Boris Johnson cannot be trusted. This looks like another bid by the Prime Minister to stoke culture wars for political gain in the run-up to the next election.

“Only on Wednesday, Government Minister Mike Freer assured parliament and the LGBT+ community that a ban on conversion therapy was imminent. Even he was apparently hood-winked by 10 Downing Street.”