On 4 February 2021, LGBTIQA+ change and suppression practices (commonly known as ‘gay conversion therapy’) were banned in Victoria.
Following a lengthy sitting in the Legislative Council, the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill passed in the Victorian Parliament, 27 votes to nine. The Bill, commencing in 12 months from the date of its passing, stipulates that anyone found attempting to suppress or change another person’s sexuality or gender identity can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment or fines of nearly $10,000, providing it can be established beyond reasonable doubt that their actions caused serious injury. The legislation also stated that people born with intersex variations would be protected from discrimination in Victoria.
The Bill follows the implementation of laws in Queensland and the ACT to ban gay conversion therapy.
Concurrently, the Family Violence Protection Act will be amended to make gay conversion therapy a form of domestic violence. The Bill banning gay conversion therapy also amends the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. Under the Act, the definition of sexual orientation and gender identity will be revised through better understanding of modern practices and lived experiences and will include sex characteristics as a new protected attribute.
Notably, Victoria’s only openly gay Member of Parliament, Harriet Shing, shared her personal experience of being denied the ability to express her sexuality and be accepted, following the parliamentary debate in the upper house on 4 February 2021.
As reported by ABC News, Shing said: “Shame is at the heart of the need for this legislation, and it is a recognition of this shame that has brought about the importance of a bill like this.” (‘Victorian bill banning gay conversion therapy passes Upper House as amendments fail’, 6 February 2021).
You can watch Harriet Shing’s speech on the gay conversion therapy bill, recorded in Parliament on 4 February 2021, here.
Ahead of the passing of the Bill, the Law Institute of Victoria expressed its concern that the proposed Bill may prevent parents or caregivers from having discussions with their children about their gender identity or sexual orientation, due to its broad nature. In response, Justice and Community Safety Department Deputy Secretary Anna Faithfull stipulated that the Bill’s purpose was to criminalise conventions where a person “[intended] to change or induce that person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity” (‘Gay conversion therapy banned in Victoria after marathon debate’, The Age, 4 February 2021).
Ms Faithfull also stated that the Bill did not sanction conduct which was “supportive or affirming of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or appropriate practices by a health professional”.
Nicholes Family Lawyers welcomes the passing on the Bill and expresses its full support for the LGBTIQA+ community. For more information on LGBTIQA+ services and support offered by Nicholes Family Lawyers, click here.