Government ban limited to 'coercive' LGBT+ conversion therapy

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand explains what's being proposed and the reaction from those impacted

Tuesday's Queen’s Speech finally contains a long-awaited pledge to ban so-called conversion therapy. But it is significantly caveated.The government says it will outlaw "coercive" attempts to change someone's sexuality, but that one word is heavily loaded.In practice, much of what is considered to be conversion therapy involves vulnerable individuals voluntarily seeking advice, only to be placed on a damaging path of counselling or prayer which seeks to convince them that they can change their attractions.

Equalities Minister Liz Truss denies further consultation will continue to delay a ban on conversion therapy

For example, in 2018 ITV News exposed a pastor at Winners Chapel in Kent, who told our reporter that the devil had made him gay and that prayer could help him to overcome his sexuality.

It is not clear whether such practices would be classed as "coercive".A government source told me that they do want the ban to be “comprehensive” and cover all forms of conversion therapy, recognising that much of it is non-coercive. But the wording has caused alarm among campaigners.

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The government also says that it wants to undertake further consultation on the exact scope of a ban, with concerns raised by religious groups that a new law could infringe upon their freedoms.But after years of consultation already, campaigners fear this will only lead to further delay as various stakeholders seek to influence the definition of conversion therapy.Whitehall sources tell me the Prime Minister is personally committed to a ban. As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson removed adverts for conversion therapy from all London transport.

People take part at a Black Trans Lives Matter march on the day Pride in London was due to take place in June 2020. Credit: PA

But Boris Johnson is also a firm believer in individual freedoms, and has been lobbied hard to allow religious leaders to continue offering pastoral guidance and prayer to those exploring their sexuality.In a letter to the Evangelical Alliance earlier this year, the Prime Minister said such freedoms would be protected.What the government is struggling to do is to draw a line between helpful discussion and the damaging process of leading someone to believe it is possible to change their sexuality.In the months ahead there is likely to be huge wrangling over the exact wording of legislation, which will determine whether or not the ban has any real impact.Campaigners are frustrated that it has already taken three years to get to this point. I am told that it may be up to another year before a ban finally becomes law.

Nancy Kelley, CEO at Stonewall, said: "We welcome the commitment to introduce legislation to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’. However, the news of a consultation is concerning and will be hard for our communities to hear.

"We don’t need a consultation to know that all practices that seek to convert, suppress, cure or change us are dangerous, abusive and must be banned. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and ace communities have been waiting almost three years for the UK Government to follow through on their promise to ban all conversion practices, and any delay leaves us at further risk of abuse."