House of Commons criticised after asking if 'gay cure' therapy should be illegal

3 July 2020, 18:19

The House of Commons asked people if they thought conversion therapy should be made illegal
The House of Commons asked people if they thought conversion therapy should be made illegal. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

The House of Commons has apologised after asking in a tweet whether gay conversion therapy should be illegal.

The post sparked a furious backlash by LGBT+ charities, which said the practice is "unethical and wrong."

It read: “How does #conversiontherapy affect the #LGBTQ community?

“Should it be made illegal? What would that mean to you? @HoCpetitions is investigating a petition calling for the practice to be made illegal.”

The tweet included a link to a consultation, following a petition with 186,000 signatures calling on ministers to ban the harmful practice for LGBT+ people.

Thousands of Twitter users rushed to condemn the post, branding it “insane”, “outrageous” and “insensitive” that the question was posed for debate.

LGBT charity Gendered Intelligence tweeted: “Just the Government asking if torture against gender minorities should be made illegal or if it should just continue as is, nothing to see here.”

The House of Commons said in a statement: “We apologise to anyone who was offended by our post. Our intention was to provide a platform for people to share their opinions on this important subject with the Petitions Committee, and inform its case to the Government.”

In a statement to LBC News, Laura Russell of the LGBT charity Stonewall said: “Any form of ‘therapy’ that attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is unethical and wrong.

“A person’s sexual orientation and gender identity is a natural, normal part of their identity and not something that can or should be changed.

“These so-called conversion therapies have been condemned by all major UK health organisations as these practices try to shame a person into denying a core part of who they are and this can have a seriously damaging effect on their mental health and wellbeing.

“The National LGBT Government survey found 2% of LGBT people have undergone conversion therapy, and a further 5% have been offered it. We’d urge the Government to hold true to their commitment to end this harmful practice, once and for all.”

The tweet sparked an immediate backlash. Shadow Foreign Office and Development minister Stephen Doughty said he has “raised concerns” about the “inappropriate and insensitive” tweet with the House of Commons petitions committee.

Labour MP Stella Creasy added: “What would it mean to me if we made sure torture was illegal in our own country that we challenge in others? well that we're doing our job for one.....ashamed this is even a question we have to ask tbh…”

Transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf tweeted: "This is outrageous. Conversion Therapy is not a debate. Shut it down.”

Conversion therapy, which aims to change a person’s sexuality, is currently legal in the UK but MPs and activists have stepped up calls in recent months to ban it.

The petition referenced by the House of Commons tweet passed 100,000 signatures, meaning Parliament is considering it for a debate.

The Government said in response that it is “committed to ensuring all citizens feel safe and protected from harm,” adding: “We will work to deepen our understanding and consider all options for ending the practice of conversion therapy.”