N. Ireland Calls for 'Conversion Therapy' Ban; Boris Johnson Urged to Follow Suit

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 22, 2021

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to back a ban on so-called "conversion therapy" following the passage of a non-binding resolution by lawmakers in Northern Ireland, British newspaper The Independent reports.

"Politicians in the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion calling for a ban on conversion therapy — which is aimed at changing person's sexual orientation or gender identity and has been discredited by the American Psychiatric Association — 'in all its forms' by 59 votes to 24," the Independent article said.

"Mr Johnson has denounced gay conversion therapy as 'absolutely abhorrent,' but his government has been accused of 'dragging its feet' on a promised ban," added The Independent.

In the past Johnson has decried the practice as having "no place in a civilized society."

The resolution was introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Ulster Unionist Party. Its landslide adoption April 20 was hailed by UUP lawmaker Doug Beattie, who said, "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," Beattie added.

"I'm a straight man, I was born straight, there is no fix or cure for me," website Pink Triangle Trust quotes him as saying. "Why would we say that a gay man can be fixed or cured? Why can we say there is a therapy to change a gay man into a straight man? There isn't. It is ludicrous."

Though the resolution is non-binding, the report said that lawmakers are set to follow up with a bill that, if passed, would turn the resolution into law.

The head of LGBTQ equality advocacy group Stonewall, Nancy Kelly, hailed the Northern Ireland resolution and decried "conversion therapy," which she said is "barbaric."

Survivors - and a growing number of former proponents - of the controversial practice agree with Kelly's assessment.

Survivors have described "therapy" techniques that amount to torture, including electric shocks and having their hands immersed in ice water to inflict pan and suffering.

Several high-profile onetime advocates have denounced "conversion therapy" and a few have publicly apologized in recent years for their role in advancing the practice.

Scottish National Party, which dominates the Scottish Parliament, has said it will follow suit, with a spokesperson for the SNP promising, "If the UK government does not take action to ban conversion therapy, we will bring forward our own legislation, as far as it is possible within the powers of the Scottish parliament."

Such measures may be somewhat limited in scope if passed without the support of Johnson's government, as both Northern Ireland and Scotland are part of the UK and ruled over by the British government.

British government has been sending signals that it would ban "conversion therapy" since 2018, but little progress had been made since then, prompting a group of British lawmakers to band together and press for the matter to be addressed.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.