As reported in the Telegraph, FSU Advisory Council member Lord David Frost has warned the Government that a ban on conversion therapy would “threaten core free speech rights”.
The peer said no law was needed to ban the practice of attempting to change a person’s sexuality or preferred gender, because coercion was already illegal.
Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, is committed to introducing a ban on conversion therapy, although the government’s plans have been repeatedly delayed over fears it could criminalise parents who question their child’s wish to change gender.
Late last year, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Burt brought forward a Private Members Bill to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy, which the House of Lords debated during second reading on Friday 9th February.
Speaking in advance of that debate, Lord Frost told the Telegraph: “There’s no evidence of a problem with conversion therapy in this country. That’s not surprising.
“Offences of physical and sexual violence, however motivated, against LGBT people or anyone else, are already illegal. Coercion is illegal.”
“The Public Order Act already makes it illegal to use ‘threatening or abusive words’ likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’, anywhere apart from a private house – a provision which is already extremely expansive,” Lord Frost continued.
“Going any further, as [Baroness Burt’s] Bill would, will threaten core free speech rights, already extremely vulnerable in this country, without doing anything to affect the supposed conversion therapy problem – because that problem doesn’t really exist in the first place.”
As the Telegraph points out, Baroness Burt’s draft legislation defines “conversion therapy” as any ‘practice’ which has the “intended purpose” of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Christian Institute recently obtained legal opinion on the question of whether this legislation would interfere with a person’s Article 9 (freedom of thought) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and it had this to say about the draft law’s use of the word “practice” in the phrase “conversion therapy practice”:
It is possible that it would be interpreted (as with the Equality Act 2010 definition) to imply an element of potentially continuing or habitual conduct. However, it is also possible that it would be interpreted simply as meaning ‘conduct’ … On either interpretation … a wide range of conduct will be caught.
In other words, Baroness Burt’s bill risks catching a “wide range of conduct”, effectively criminalising doctors, parents and teachers who deviate from an “affirmative” approach to gender dysphoria in children and adolescents — even if the deviation is only undertaken as part of a one-off, perfectly legitimate conversation with a child, and irrespective of whether that child is their own child, or a child in their care.
Worth reading in full.
You can also watch the speech Lord Frost made during the House of Lords debate on Baroness Burt’s Private Members’ Bill below.
It’s also worth pointing out that the FSU is lobbying hard against a trans conversion ban, and urging Parliamentarians to consider the unintended consequences for freedom of speech if a bill containing any such interdiction is brought forward, in this Parliament or the next.
Given the severity of the proposed legislation’s implications, the FSU is also urging members to write to their MPs to highlight these concerns. You can click here to use our automated campaigning tool — it’s a simple and fast process that can have a significant impact.
Please join our campaign and help make sure that freedom of speech remains protected, particularly in sensitive and potentially life-altering circumstances.
Some of the other notable speeches from the House of Lords debate on Baroness Burt’s Private Members’ Bill are available below.