MLAs have passed a motion calling on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to introduce a ban on gay conversion therapy 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.
As ‘Belfast Telegraph’ reports, 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.
Following the Assembly vote in favour of his party's motion, UUP MLA Doug Beattie said: “I am delighted that we were able to bring this issue to the floor of the Assembly. Since our motion was announced we have seen a swell of vocal support across all sections of the society for a ban on this harmful practice.
“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.
“Conversion therapy exists in an environment where a culture of shame is cultivated. This culture creates a problem and offers a solution through conversion therapy. We cannot look away from the devastating effect of shame on LGBTQ people. 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.”
In response, Minister 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. We need to accept people for who they are and this is what I will ensure we do.”
Presbyterian Moderator, Dr David Bruce, said he welcomed the opportunity for locally elected representatives to discuss and debate an issue that is important to many, including people of faith, highlighting the need for clarity and balance.
“As a Church we are also clear on this issue, we oppose such coercive approaches, do not sanction them and they should never be suggested. We support moves to introduce legislation where it does not already exist to outlaw these abuses, which are evidently damaging to people,” he added.
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