'Thousands' attend protests calling for conversion therapy ban to include transgender people
Thousands of people have gathered at protests near Downing Street in London and elsewhere, calling on the government to include transgender people in a proposed ban on conversion therapy.
Organisers say at least 3,000 people attended the event in the capital, with similar action held in Belfast and Dublin on Sunday.
It follows the government's partial U-turn on plans to scrap a conversion therapy ban altogether - revealed exclusively by ITV News.
Ministers now say a ban on conversion therapy for lesbian, gay and bisexual people will go ahead but conversion therapy for transgender people will still be permitted.
There has been widespread condemnation of the plans since ministers made clear transgender people would not be included in the ban. Last week saw high profile resignations and the cancellation of the government's international LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me 2022, after a hundred leading organisations pulled out of the event.
Addressing the rally in Belfast, John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said that if conversion therapy was wrong for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, then it was also wrong for transgender people.
He said: “I think it is important that we send a message to Westminster.
“That we send a message to Boris Johnson and we stand in solidarity with our organisations right across the UK and Ireland.
“We are standing in solidarity today to say clearly to this Government that they must end the harm.
“They must end conversion therapy. If conversion therapy is wrong for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, then it is also wrong for our trans and non-binary communities as well.”
In London, protesters held placards and banners reading "Pride is a protest", "No ban without trans" and "no excuse for abuse".
One of the government's former key advisors on LGBT+ issues was at the rally on Sunday.
Iain Anderson resigned from his role as the LGBT business champion earlier this week, telling ITV News the government is "trying to drive a wedge" between trans and lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Jayne Ozanne, another former member of the government's LGBT+ Advisory Panel, was also at the protest. She quit the panel last year, telling ITV News the UK government has created a "hostile environment" for LGBT+ people.
Boris Johnson last week stood firm on his government's decision to exclude transgender people from protection against conversion therapy.
The prime minister told reporters: "I don't think that it's reasonable for kids to be deemed so-called Gillick-competent to take decisions about their gender or irreversible treatments that they may have. I think there should be parental involvement at the very least."
He added: "It's vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions.
"But these are complex issues and I don't think they can be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right."
Commenting previously on the decision, Downing Street said trans conversion therapy would escape the legislation because it's a "legally complex area...particularly in the case of under-18s".