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The Victorian parliament has passed a bill banning gay conversion therapy

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The Victorian parliament has voted to outlaw gay conversion therapy in a marathon sitting of the state’s upper house on Thursday night. 

The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill passed the Legislative Council on Thursday night 29 votes to nine following a 12-hour debate.

Liberal MPs Bev McArthur and Bernie Finn broke party ranks and voted against the government’s legislation, along with crossbench MPs Jeff Bourman, Catherine Cumming, Clifford Hayes, Stuart Grimley, David Limbrick, Tania Maxwell and Tim Quilty.

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The bill outlaws any therapy that attempts to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of conversion practices.

It also puts in place strong criminal sanctions for people who subject others to conversion practices that cause injury or serious injury, with up to 10 years’ jail for the latter.

Those who try to get around the laws by sending people to conversion practices out of the state would also face criminal sanctions and fines to a maximum of almost $10,000.

The bill was all but guaranteed to pass after Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, Samantha Ratnam of the Greens and Andy Meddick from the Animal Justice Party confirmed on Tuesday they would back the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill in the Legislative Council.

The bill passed the lower house of parliament in December last year with 55 MPs voting in favour of the bill and the Liberal opposition abstaining. 

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Earlier on Thursday, some Liberal MPs tried to withdraw the bill for further consultation, but there were defeated narrowly by a vote. 

The bill goes further than a similar law passed in Queensland in 2020, by prohibiting harmful practices not only in healthcare settings but also in religious settings.

It bans “carrying out a religious practice including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism”.

Advocates including the Brave Network, the LGBTQIA+ committee of the Uniting Church in Australia, and Rainbow Catholics, have described the bill as the “world’s most significant achievement in legislation curtailing the diabolical influence of the conversion movement”.

Faith groups have claimed the bill attacks religious freedom, while some medical professionals have raised concerns it could compromise the practice of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

“This bill does not outlaw prayer. It does not prevent health professionals from doing their job. It does not stop parents from talking to their kids about their views about sexuality or gender,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.

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“To suggest anything to the contrary is rubbish.”

Ms Symes, who replaced Jill Hennessy in the role in December, said she was “friggin’ proud” to be carrying on her predecessor’s work.

“I can’t wait to go home and tell my kids what I did today,” she said.

The legislation will now go to the Victorian governor for royal assent. It will not come into effect for 12 months.

With AAP.

LGBTIQ+ Australians seeking support with mental health can contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or visit qlife.org.auReachOut.com also has a list of support services.

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