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Work begins to draft legislation banning conversion therapy as MLAs pass motion

Amendment tabled by DUP defeated in Assembly vote

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Message: UUP’s Doug Beattie said the ‘conversion therapy’ has no place in society

Message: UUP’s Doug Beattie said the ‘conversion therapy’ has no place in society

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Message: UUP’s Doug Beattie said the ‘conversion therapy’ has no place in society

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has said officials have started work around the drafting of legislation to ban conversion therapy.

It came as MLAs passed a motion calling on her to introduce a ban on the practice in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist Party motion stated it was "fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure".

A DUP amendment supported prohibition of the practice but sought to include protections for "legitimate religious activities such as preaching, prayer and pastoral support", insisting those do not constitute conversion therapy.

The amendment faced criticism from political rivals for removing the line from the original motion stating that it was wrong to view the LGBTQ community as requiring a "fix or cure".

The amendment was defeated 59 votes to 28. The substantive motion passed 59 votes to 24.

During the debate, Ms Hargey said: "Legislation to ban it should be introduced as soon as possible. Indeed, I am exploring all legislative options available to me."

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She added: "My officials have commenced policy work to inform the drafting of the legislation alongside work that we are doing on the LGBTQI strategy."

Following the Assembly vote in favour of his party's motion, UUP MLA Doug Beattie said: "So-called 'conversion therapy' has no place in our society. To suggest that our LGBTQ+ population are in need of a fix or cure is fundamentally wrong.

"The Assembly had an opportunity to send a message to those who have been subjected to this disgraceful practice that we hear them and will right this wrong. Conversion therapy has a devastating impact on the lives of those who have undergone it and many still suffer from poor mental health for years afterwards."

Mr Beattie warned of the "devastating effect of shame on LGBTQ people", adding: "Quite simply, shame is a killer. Lives have been lost after people were driven to a helpless and hopeless place."

Mr Beattie added: "Deirdre Hargey gave her support to a ban. We now need to see legislation brought forward imminently. Conversion therapy must be banned before the end of this mandate."

Afterwards, Ms Hargey said: "So-called 'conversion therapy' has no place in society. I know how huge the hurt and damage can be to people when they are told they need to be fixed or cured.

"We have heard that hurt again from people in recent days. This language and behaviour is unacceptable and should not be tolerated - it will not be included in any proposals put forward by my Department."

DUP MLA Pam Cameron said it was important to be specific about what was being banned, warning against sweeping measures.

"I am in full support of a ban on the dangerous practices of conversion therapy in Northern Ireland," she said.

"My party believes that discrimination against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong. We are all created equal and should be treated as such. No one should ever be forced into treatment for being gay."

Ms Cameron outlined concerns about the absence of any clear or evidence-based definition of conversion therapy in the motion.

"There is a risk that such ambiguity, if translated into legislation, would criminalise legitimate activities or conversations. We simply want to avoid unintended and unjustified consequences."


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