Government to extend conversion therapy consultation

(Photo: Unsplash/NikMacMillan)

The government has announced it will be extending the consultation on its proposed conversion therapy ban by eight weeks.

The consultation was launched in October and had been due to end on Friday.

The Christian Institute was among the organisations raising concerns about the length of the consultation, which was originally to run for only six weeks instead of the usual 12. 

The consultation is being extended after the gender-critical group, Fair Play for Women, threatened a judicial review over the short timescale. 

Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute's Let Us Pray campaign, which is opposing the ban, said he was grateful that the government was now going to follow normal protocol and allow the consultation to run for beyond the usual 12-week minimum. 

"It seems they have also added an extra couple of weeks out of respect for the fact that the consultation runs over Christmas, a time of year important to many Christians," he said. 

"The previous six-week timescale left little time for people to become aware of the Government's plans for a ban, let alone to understand them and respond to the consultation." 

Former No 10 aide Nikki Da Costa has claimed that the original six-week timescale was "driven" by a desire "to get a good news story" in time for the government-backed LGBTQ equality conference taking place next spring.

The extension of the consultation was announced in the same week that hundreds of church leaders said they were prepared to break the law if a ban is introduced.

"Recent weeks have seen more voices echoing our long-held concerns that the ban could criminalise ordinary, innocent church activities, and ordinary, harmless parenting decisions," said Calvert.

"Many pushing for this ban say prayer and pastoral support that don't support LGBT politics must be criminalised. They want harmless Christian ministers to face criminal investigation for praying according to mainstream Christian sexual ethics." 

He added, "The document lacks detail and fails to adequately discuss the potential impact on families and churches. The Government has already been warned it faces judicial review if it gets these proposals wrong. 

"I can see the Government having to go back to the drawing board and issue a new consultation document next year which properly discusses the issues at stake and asks meaningful questions about the impact on families and churches."