5 Aug 2021

Conversion therapy ban legislation passes first reading at Parliament

5:28 pm on 5 August 2021

New Zealand is a step closer to banning gay conversion therapy, with legislation criminalising the practice passing its first hurdle in Parliament this afternoon.

people, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, gay and love concept - close up of happy lesbian couple holding hands over rainbow flag background

Photo: 123RF

All political parties, except National, supported the legislation at its first reading.

It is a practice with no scientific basis - a treatment claiming to cure people of their sexuality, but instead doing harm.

Conversion therapy is illegal in some parts of the world, but not New Zealand.

Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said it is past time for change.

"We want to make a very firm statement that conversion practices do not work. They cause harm for people who are going through the process of being who they are."

Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere said people who practice conversion therapy must be held to account.

"People who have had this happen to them deserve some justice. Should we get more to a point where those congregations decide to learn from those mistakes, that they apologise for the harm they have caused and they beg forgiveness from their god and their communities."

Labour's Ayesha Verrall pointed to the suffering those who have been through conversion therapy experience.

She described it as a sick and bizarre practice.

"All our young people should grow up with a sense of pride in themselves. Conversion therapy is monstrous. It is not therapy; it is hate."

In April, National leader Judith Collins pledged her party's support for the ban, saying she had been convinced after googling conversion therapy and speaking to the party's youth wing.

"That's the right thing to do. None of us have any truck with anyone being bullied or told that they are wrong when they are dealing with their sexuality."

But National was the only party today to vote against the legislation.

Simon Bridges said the caucus supports the bill's intent, but not as it is currently worded. He wants the legislation tightened to ensure parents are protected from prosecution.

"Parents should be allowed to be parents and to explore sexuality and gender with their children."

It leaves the caucus at odds with its youth wing: the president of the Young Nats Stephanie-Anne Ross said she is deeply disappointed.

The group has long supported a ban on conversion therapy and said while the bill is not perfect, the problems should be ironed out at select committee.

The bill is headed there now, giving the public a chance to have their say.

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