The flag of Scotland. Credit: Lynx Aqua/Shutterstock. / null

CNA Staff, Jan 11, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Scottish government this week released a document proposing the criminalization of “conversion practices,” which it defined broadly as “acts which are intended to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Equality, Inclusion, and Human Rights Directorate’s 86-page consultation paper, released on Jan. 9, contains detailed proposals for “conversion therapy” legislation in Scotland.  

The directorate, a department of the Scottish government that focuses on public policy development, is requesting public discussion on the matter through an online consultation where citizens may submit their opinions until April.

Titled “Ending Conversion Practices in Scotland: Consultation,” the paper promotes criminalizing “conversion practices,” which include acts with “intent” to change the person’s gender identity or sexuality. 

“Conversion practices are harmful to individuals subjected to them,” the consultation paper states. “They are promoted within an ideology that views LGBTQI+ identities as wrong and believes that they can be changed. Their existence contributes to this way of thinking even further.”

The directorate claimed these “conversion practices” range from “controlling” someone’s appearance to “restricting where a person goes and who they see.” Prescribing sexual suppressants intended to suppress a person’s sexuality or “gender identity” would also fall under this category, the document said.

Conversion practices also included “therapy or counseling that requires a person not to act on their same-sex attraction, including through celibacy.” 

The Christian Institute, a nondenominational charity that advocates the upholding of biblical truths, said this week that it “remains ready” to take the Scottish government to court over the potential law. 

“The courts could impose draconian limits on the free speech of individuals based purely on activists’ speculation about what they might say to gay or trans people,” said Simon Calvert, the institute’s deputy director for public affairs. 

The Scottish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, meanwhile, expressed concern last year that a “conversion therapy” ban would restrict mainstream religious pastoral care, parental guidance, and other relevant professional intervention “unless it was approved by the state as acceptable.”

Crux quoted a “Church representative” this week as saying: “While the Church supports legislation which protects people from physical and verbal abuse, a fundamental pillar of any free society is that the state recognizes and respects the right of religious bodies and organizations to be free to teach the fulness of their beliefs and to support, through prayer, counsel and other pastoral means, their members who wish to live in accordance with those beliefs.”

Scotland, the consultation paper notes, already has laws against “behavior often associated with conversion practices, including situations involving physical violence or threatening conduct.”

The government noted that this legislation does not apply to “non-directive” discussions or guidance from parents, religious leaders, or health care providers. 

“The distinction here is that these allow the individual to come to their own decision, whatever that may be, and does not direct them to a particular predetermined sexual orientation or gender identity that is considered ‘preferable,’” the document reads.

The “intention to change or suppress” someone’s sexual orientation or “gender identity” is what defines an act as a conversion practice, according to the document, which says that “any difference lies in the motivation behind the act.”

According to the U.K. government’s National LGBT Survey, 2% of respondents had undergone “conversion” or reparative therapy, while 5% had been offered it.

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