On Tuesday evening, a bill to ban conversion therapy practices passed its third and final reading.
All but eight National MPs voted in favour of the bill that will outlaw harmful practices that forcibly try to change or suppress someone’s gender or sexual identity.
The bill, which now needs to pass Royal Assent and be signed by the Sovereign or the Governor-General for it to be passed into law, will see someone imprisoned for up to three years in jail for performing conversion therapy on someone under 18 and up to five years where it has caused serious harm, irrespective of age.
The ban will come into force in six months.
There were 112 MPs who voted in favour.
Here is the breakdown:
New Zealand Labour Party (65)
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (10)
ACT New Zealand (10)
Te Paati Māori (2)
New Zealand National Party (25)
The National Party MPs who voted in favour of the bill: Andrew Bayly, David Bennett, Chris Bishop, Gerry Brownlee, Judith Collins, Jacqui Dean, Matt Doocey, Paul Goldsmith, Nicola Grigg, Harete Hipango, Barbara Kuriger, Chris Luxon, Ian McKelvie, Mark Mitchell, Joseph Mooney, Todd Muller, Maureen Pugh, Penny Simmonds, Scott Simpson, Stuart Smith, Erica Stanford, Tim van de Molen, Simon Watts, Nicola Willis and Louise Upston.
The eight National MPs who voted against: Simon Bridges, Simeon Brown, Melissa Lee, Simon O’Connor, Dr Shane Reti, Todd McClay, Michael Woodhouse and Chris Penk.
National MPs Todd McClay and Chris Penk originally voted in favour of the bill in the second reading but voted against it in the third and final reading.
National MP Louise Upston initially voted against the bill but voted in favour during the final reading.
Opening up the debate of the third reading, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said he grew up in a religious, church-going household in the era of homosexual law reform.
“But not everybody is, or was, so lucky. The other group that needs to be acknowledged from the outset are those from our rainbow communities who did not make it,” Robertson said.
Robertson paid tribute to his former work colleague named James who was bought up in the same church as Robertson but whose parents did not accept him as queer.
“It was intolerable for him," Robertson said. "He took his own life at the age of 23."
"To James and to many like him from all parts of the rainbow communities, and also to those who have been directly affected by conversion practices or attempts at them, we want to say this legislation is for you.
“We cannot bring you back. We cannot undo all of the hurt. But, we can make sure that for the generations to come, we provide the support and love that you did not get and that we protect you from the harm of those who seek to try to stop you from being who you are. We will never forget you.”
Labour Party’s Ayesha Verrall acknowledged survivors of conversion therapy for their courage in making submissions for the bill.
“So many of us have our own stories of stigma, hate, or rejection to share. In so many instances, we respond with dignity, love, and pride.”
In a press release from Tuesday evening, the Green Party said it was a historic day for Aotearoa.
“It is the day where the decades of trauma experienced by Rainbow communities is recognised, and our right to exist free from torture, coercion and suppression is cemented in law.
“No one is allowed to force people to change because of their diverse sexualities, gender identities, or sex characteristics.”
There were 107,000 public submissions on the proposed law - which is the highest ever received in New Zealand’s history. The select committee received 38,900 unique submissions.
While the bill is a step in the right direction, members of New Zealand’s rainbow communities say there are gaping holes in the legislation.
The organiser of End Conversion Therapy NZ Shaneel Lal says “I would have liked to have seen a bill that protects people in our community, regardless of what age they are and one that ensures that survivors and victims of conversion therapy get redress”.
“Currently, the present bill does not achieve that.”
More than 18,000 people have signed Shaneel’s petition calling for three major amendments to the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill.
These changes include the removal of a section which says there can be no prosecution without the Attorney-General’s consent, the inclusion of ACC coverage for mental harm suffered as a result of conversion therapy, and allowing people of all ages to not have to prove they meet the requirements for “serious harm.”
Shaneel says depression and suicide ideation are the most common consequences of conversion therapy.
However, in criminal law, these harmful impacts are the most difficult to prove.
“I am mindful that we did not achieve the homosexual law reform in the marriage equality bill on the same day. So this bill establishes the foundation for change.”
Where to get help:
- 1737: The nationwide, 24/7 mental health support line. Call or text 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor.
- Suicide Crisis Line: Free call 0508 TAUTOKO or 0508 828 865. Nationwide 24/7 support line operated by experienced counsellors with advanced suicide prevention training.
- Youthline: Free call 0800 376 633, free text 234. Nationwide service focused on supporting young people.
- OUTLine NZ: Freephone 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463). National service that helps LGBTIQ+ New Zealanders access support, information, and a sense of community.
Top Image: An image of the Pride flag. (File photo) Photo: Getty Images