Row over government plan to ban gay conversion therapy
A Northern Ireland-based Christian organisation which counsels gay people to "move away from homosexual influences" says a new government LGBT action plan aiming to ban gay conversion therapies is "a denial of fundamental human rights".
The Core Issues Trust is headed by Ballynahinch man Mike Davidson (63), who says LGBT people "can choose not to live out homosexuality".
Mr Davidson, a father-of-two who underwent counselling for homosexuality and has been married for 38 years, provides 'sexual attraction fluidity exploration' therapy from his Co Down base.
In March, the Core Issues Trust held the all-Ireland premiere of its so-called 'gay cure' film, Voices of the Silenced, at Ballynahinch Baptist Church.
The film had previously been turned down by Queen's Film Theatre and The Vue in London's Piccadilly.
Now, a £4.5m government initiative aimed at making society more inclusive for the LGBT community has branded so-called "gay cure" conversion therapies "abhorrent".
It follows a major government survey of 108,000 LGBT people - 2% of whom had undergone conversion therapy and a further 5% of whom had been offered it.
The government action plan states: "We will consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy."
The survey showed that LGBT people are experiencing prejudice on a daily basis, the government said.
More than two in three of those who took part said they avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner in public for fear of a negative reaction, while 23% said work colleagues had reacted negatively to them being LGBT, and over half of those who accessed or tried to access mental health services said they had to wait too long.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: "We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in advancing LGBT rights, but the overwhelming response to our survey has shone a light on the many areas where we can improve the lives of LGBT people.
"No one should ever have to hide who they are or who they love. This LGBT action plan will set out concrete steps to deliver real and lasting change across society, from health and education to tackling discrimination and addressing the burning injustices that LGBT people face."
In a statement, the Core Issues Trust said that banning therapies such as sexual attraction fluidity therapy is "a denial of fundamental human rights as laid down in the European Human Rights Convention" (EHRC) and called for "regulation over restriction or banning".
It stated: "Some clients, seeking viable and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex, find the capacity for that.
"Some wish to modify behaviours and renounce as false the identity they formerly described as 'gay'. Some are married and have children and wish to maintain the integrity of such marriages.
"Despite the fact that the UK is signed up to the EHRC, it continues to fail to protect ex-gay individuals in their right to determine their own sexual identity.
"It now appears to impose a mandatory gay trajectory for those seeking change therapy."
LGBT hate incidents had been experienced by 40% of people in the government survey, with more than nine in 10 of the most serious offences going unreported.
The government plan aims to look into the scale of LGBT abuse online; improving mental healthcare for LGBT people with a focus on suicide prevention; combating homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools, and increasing awareness of the services available for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell welcomed the move on gay conversion therapy, but said the overall plan did not go far enough.
He said: "The biggest fail is the lack of any pledge to end the detention and deportation of LGBT+ refugees fleeing persecution in violently homophobic countries like Uganda, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Jamaica.
"Another big omission is the absence of any commitment to compensate gay and bisexual men who were convicted under past anti-gay laws.
"The £4.5m budget is derisory and insulting."
A national adviser on reducing LGBT inequality will be appointed as part of the initiative.