Equalities Minister Liz Truss has said parents and teachers will still be able to discuss with children “whether they are transgender or not” amid fears the freedom to explore the issues privately could be curtailed under a broad conversion therapy ban.
Truss, who is also Foreign Secretary, wrote to MPs and peers to address their warnings that the proposals risked “trampling over the vulnerabilities of children” and needed to be “thought through properly”.
Last week, the Government announced its consultation on the ban would run for an additional eight weeks. Initially set to last for just six weeks – half the usual length – the limited response time led to accusations the ban was being “rushed” through.
The Telegraph reports that many Conservative parliamentarians have recognised that the type of ban proposed in the consultation leaves parents, teachers and doctors at risk of being criminalised if they don’t affirm a child’s desire to ‘change sex’.
They fear the chilling effect of the law could lead to more children undergoing “radical medical or surgical procedures, which they later deeply regret”.
In her response, Truss promised: “The Government’s proposals will protect freedom of speech. Parents, clinicians and teachers will of course continue to be able to have conversations with young people or others about their sexual orientation or whether they are transgender or not.”
But she insisted that the Government remains “committed to preparing legislation to ban conversion therapy for Spring 2022 and introducing this as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.
Over 2,500 church leaders and pastoral workers are writing to Liz Truss to seek assurances that the ordinary work of churches is not caught by a ban.
While the letter’s authors, Raymond Anthony Brown, Revd David Gobbett and Revd Matthew Roberts, accepted that the Government “does not intend this legislation to impact the normal practice of religion”, they expressed deep concern “that the legislative approach outlined would do exactly this”.
They warned that the ban set out in the consultation could make it illegal “for us as Christian ministers to persuade, to teach and to help people of every age to become, and to live as, orthodox Christians”.
Jesus is Lord
The letter added: “It should not be a criminal offence for us to instruct our children that God made them male and female, in his image, and has reserved sex for the marriage of one man and one woman. Yet this seems to be the likely outcome of the proposed legislation.
“We see in these proposals a clear possibility that our duty as ministers, of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and calling people to find life in him, which includes living by his laws, will be criminalised.”