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UK: Health minister calls ex-gay therapy ‘abhorrent,’ rules out regulation

Government decision not to ban practice criticized

British Health Minister Norman Lamb has ruled out a ban on ex-gay therapy. Credit: edp24.co.uk

UK Health Minister Norman Lamb called ex-gay therapy "utterly abhorrent" but ruled out banning the practice during a Nov 20 debate in Parliament, Pink News reports.  

In October, Labour MP Geraint Davies proposed a bill to ban ex-gay therapy. The measure has the support of MPs among the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru (a Welsh centre-left party) and his own Labour Party. According to Pink News, Davies suggested making regulation compulsory as a means to ending the practice.

But during Wednesday's debate, Lamb rejected the introduction of a regulatory framework for dealing with the practice as inappropriate, saying that it would incur costs to taxpayers that could not be justified, Pink News says. 

More than 50 MPs signed a motion in June against the practice. The motion states in part, “This House believes that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not a disease or illness and that therapy which attempts to cure or change a person’s sexual orientation is both ineffective and potentially extremely harmful.”

It also calls on the government to "investigate any NHS [National Health Service] links with conversion therapists, ensuring that NHS medical professionals cannot inflict this cruel treatment on their patients and to take steps to ban conversion therapy for under-18s.”

Lamb said he isn't aware that the NHS sanctions ex-gay therapy. He adds that government would proceed with the introduction of a voluntary register for psychotherapists, who aren't regulated. 

In an opinion piece published on the Pink News site, Davies's Labour colleague Sandra Osborne further criticized Lamb's approach, saying conversion therapy "belongs in the history books." With the legalization of gay marriage, the focus must now be on ensuring that public services respond to, not undermine, LGBT people's needs, Osborne writes. Osborne had called for the parliamentary debate.

She adds, "Gay conversion therapy is just one aspect of this wider problem we have: some medical professionals just don’t know what to do if a gay person comes to their clinic expressing an uneasiness about their sexuality."

Read Osborne's piece in its entirety.