Faith-based exemptions to be debated for the second time this year


Westminster Labour MP Glenda Jackson will oppose the abolition of religious exemptions for conversion therapy – a practice which aims to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – when they come before Parliament for the second time this year.

The issue was voted down last month by the House of Commons after 137 MPs defied a whip from David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, to back the motion.

Applying a “kirk” clause to a bill can effectively overturn a decision made by Government, or any committee of MPs, meaning there is likely to be a second vote in September.

Mr Davis, who is a Conservative backbencher, called the vote last month because, as a former director of Ofsted, he strongly opposed the practice.

But under a string of amendments to their party’s party policy, the Conservative party agreed to introduce a “Freedom of Choice” amendment to the Youth Mental Health Bill.

The amendment states: “There shall be a repeal of section 5 of the Equalities Act 2010 and of the Equalities Act 2011, both of which were established to protect disabled people in relation to the voluntary sector’s use of psychological and psychiatric therapies.”

However, it does not mention religion, although it states it has not been kept silent on such matters and is consulted “where there is a public or political imperative” for it to do so.

A spokesman for the House of Commons said: “The decision to have the amendment revealed is a matter for parliamentarians to decide, though ministers are absolutely clear on the Conservative party policy on the subject of conversion therapy which includes implementing the Equalities Act and reintroducing the Sexual Orientation Change Exploitation Bill into Parliament.”

It was also reported that Conservative MP Philip Davies, who was widely seen as being responsible for wrecking the government’s efforts to outlaw gay conversion therapy, is now supporting a vote on banning the practice – but, once again, he has used the amendment to spare religious organisations.

However, others at Westminster who oppose the amendment are not backing down in the face of the threat of a second vote in September.

In a House of Commons debate last week, Glenda Jackson – who as a Labour politician is one of the few who has voted against banning religious exemptions in Parliament – said that in carrying out its duties, parliament “must oppose all forms of discrimination, including religious discrimination”.

She added: “It is particularly unacceptable that a Member of Parliament would be left with no choice but to vote in favour of a bill that tackles forced conversion therapy.

“This is a particular issue for transgender people who, as a minority, often fall victim to arbitrary religious interpretations.”

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