Bill is a 'risk to our democratic freedoms'
First Published Gippsland Times 16/2/21
A bill just passed in Victoria which Former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson described as the ‘biggest threat to our democratic freedoms in Australia’s entire legislative history’.
That sobering statement needs to be juxtaposed with the comments made by Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing. Shing said the legislation was all about ‘shame’ and unconditional love. Clearly the divide on this issue could not be greater.
Given Anderson’s statement, it was surprising that so few in the Victorian Parliament opposed this legislation to prosecute the case for those democratic freedoms. How many Victorian parents are aware that ‘harmful practises’ being prohibited in this legislation include particular private discussions in the home? Emotional speeches of serious harm long since outlawed and rarely, if ever, endorsed in Australia overlook this. Expressing views or even offering a prayer, between friends, family members, or receiving advice from counsellors, medical professionals, psychotherapists, psychiatrists or religious leaders – well anyone really – must now be in line with the approved government social theory on matters relating to sexuality. The parental role has been redefined. It has been decided by our government that change in orientation is not possible unless it is away from heterosexuality. 78 former LGBT people surveyed by the organisation ‘Free to Change’will attest that this makes it very awkward for those who have changed in the other direction. Their lived experience has simply been erased.
We can all agree that no one should be coerced into change, but this legislation applies ‘with or without the person's consent.’ This bill removes your free will. Shing said “it was not right that gay people had been made to feel that “love is conditional upon us either denying who we are or agreeing to change”. If Shing ‘felt’ this way, why would she put the full force of the law behind stopping others from exploring who they think they are, just because it’s not in the same direction?
Sale woman, Hannah Lonnee said she was baffled by the opposition from some pastoral leaders to a bill to protect the very young people and hailed the ban as “the first step in gay conversion therapy survivors’ healing “. Perhaps that’s an anecdotal projection, based on her personal feelings. Without devaluing those feelings, it must be noted this bill conflates sexual orientation with gender identity and those most at risk from this celebrated bill are dysphoric children.
The UK case of Keira Bell should set a precedent. At 23 Bell sued the clinic because she believes the adults should have ‘challenged her more’ over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager. Parent’s beware. That’s something you won’t be able to do in Victoria now. The three High Court judges found in Bell’s favour. She said she was ‘prescribed dangerous, experimental drugs’ followed by a double mastectomy. You have to ask, in what moral universe do you prohibit parents from engaging with their kids against such harms?
It’s ironic in Victoria that ‘discussions’ are harmful - while teenagers fuelled with hormone blockers can legally pursue such radical surgery detrimental to their future fertility and sexual capability.
Ms Lonne said she was ‘emotionally damaged’ from ‘mixed messages’ from her church and is celebrating this bill. Yet this bill condemns a growing number of detransitioners, the many more Keira’s who wish they’d be challenged and made a different decision as a teenager. No mixed messages for them; no options at all.
Ms Lonnee is right that all should be free from religious-based coercion. But isn’t this bill itself an act of religious- based coercion reaching into families and dictating to faith communities their new state-approved doctrine? Shouldn’t everyone be free to believe or not to believe, to change or not to change? The accepted Christian view perpetuated throughout history is that all sex outside biblically defined marriage is contrary to the tenets of the faith. If you don’t agree, then as adults we choose to meet elsewhere with those of like mind – not insist everyone change to adopt a personal or government approved social theory.
Those that crossed the floor on this bill understood the huge over-reach of the government it represents. It even has extra-territorial powers to criminalise private and professional conversations outside Victorian borders. That’s scary. The division on this bill highlights a cultural divide between those who hold unswervingly to ideas of freedom of conscience, belief, speech and association and those prosecuting the case for a shame and honour culture, which ironically creates a type of blasphemy law silencing anything but the state-approved narrative. It’s from these types of regimes many of our migrants have fled.
John Anderson saw the risk to democratic freedoms. Likewise, the US federal appellate court struck down the same sort of ban in three states because it was recognised that such laws violate the free speech guarantees of the US Constitution. And yet here in Victoria our politicians didn’t seem to think democratic freedoms were worth fighting for and our media appears mystified as to why there was any opposition at all.