Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quaker support for banning conversion therapy

At our recent special called Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, South Edinburgh Quakers expressed our support for making conversion therapy for gender and/or sexual orientation illegal in Scotland.  

Attached below please find an email from Rici Marshall-Cross, Clerk of South Edinburgh Local Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), about our recent Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, as well as our minute and our submission to the Scottish government consultation on banning conversion therapy.   


Dear Friends,

The Scottish Government is holding a consultation on a law to ban the provision or promotion of LGBT+ conversion therapy in Scotland. Friends in South Edinburgh Local Meeting encourage other Friends to make a submission, which you can do here: https://yourviews.parliament.scot/ehrc/petition-end-conversion-therapy-views/ . The deadline for the consultation is 13th August. Submissions do not need to be lengthy. In this email is a bit of background and the minute from South Edinburgh local meeting, including our response, which may help with ideas for the submission. Many of us were not aware that conversion therapy is not already illegal. Stasa Morgan-Appel is happy to talk to anyone who would like to discuss the issue. Her details are in the book of members, or I can pass them on.

Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful. (definition taken from Stonewall https://www.stonewall.org.uk/campaign-groups/conversion-therapy)

In 2018 the UK Government committed to ban conversion therapy in the UK, and this commitment was repeated in the 2021 Queen's Speech. However, the process is facing further delays at the UK level. The SNP committed in their 2021 manifesto that if the UK government failed to ban conversion therapy, then it would seek to ban it in Scotland. The consultation we are responding to is part of the Scottish process to ban LGBT+ conversion therapy.

You can find more information here:
We hope that this information will be useful for Friends.  

In Friendship,
Rici and Stasa


South Edinburgh Local Meeting 
Meeting for Worship for Business 25th July 2021 
Minutes of Special Meeting 

21.7.1. Submission to Government consultation on banning LGBT+ conversion therapy

Stasa Morgan-Appel has brought to our attention the Scottish Government consultation on banning LGBT+ conversion therapy. The closing date for submissions is 13th August.

We were reminded in our worship this morning by the words of Quaker Faith and Practice 22.16 that it is fear and vulnerability that often makes people afraid of those who are different. We affirm our belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are sacred gifts.

We agree that we would like to make a submission as a meeting. We affirm the draft wording prepared by Stasa, and thank her for preparing this. We ask Stasa and our clerk, Rici Marshall Cross to submit this on the government portal on our behalf

We ask Rici to send information to Sue Proudlove to send out to all Friends in Scotland to encourage them to make submissions to the consultation. We agree to discuss this topic with our MSP, Daniel Johnson when we meet him in August.

Wording of our submission

Section 1 - What are your views on the action called for in the petition?

South Edinburgh Local Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, in keeping with our Quaker Testimony of  Equality,  affirms our continued leading as a faith community to treat people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual in the same way as we treat people who are heterosexual or cisgender, and to advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people to be treated equally in society.  

We therefore support a ban on all practices that seek to change a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In 2009, Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) stated plainly that as a faith community, “...we are being led to treat same sex committed relationships in the same way as opposite sex marriages.”   In 2013, South Edinburgh Local Meeting responded to the Scottish Government consultation on same-sex marriage in support of a change to the law in order to treat same-sex couples equally to opposite-sex couples.  Also in 2013, Southeast Scotland Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) joined other faith bodies in Scotland to support changing marriage law in Scotland to include same-sex couples, eventually leading to our support for the Marriage and Civil Partnership Act (Scotland) 2014.         

We believe that both sexual orientation and gender identity are sacred gifts.  We are deeply troubled by the harm caused to people who have been subjected to conversion therapy for gender identity and/or sexual orientation.  We would oppose efforts to change heterosexual people's sexual orientation; we would oppose efforts to change cisgender people's gender, ie, the gender identity of people whose gender identify is consistent with the gender they were assigned at birth.  We oppose efforts to change the sexual orientation and/or gender of LGBTQIA+ people.    

We support the following action items:  

  • A comprehensive ban on conversion therapy, accompanied by support to survivors and communities impacted by these practices, as both necessary and urgent.
  • That the ban include all forms of conversion therapy on the basis of sexuality or gender identity without exception.
  • The Scottish Government should act immediately to ban conversion therapy, without waiting for Westminster, to prevent further harm.

Section 2 - What action would you like to see the Scottish Government take?

  • The implementation of a criminal ban on the promotion, provision, causing of a person to undergo conversion therapy or removing a person from the UK to undergo conversion therapy abroad.
  • Training on safeguarding and awareness in the public health service and private healthcare providers, and the establishment of an anonymous reporting system.
  • Outreach and engagement with religious and community leaders including training to explain the impact of certain teachings on LGBTQIA+ members of their communities.
  • Outreach and support for survivors and communities affected by conversion therapy.

Section 3 - Do you have suggestions on how the Committee can take forward its consideration of the petition (e.g. who should it talk to and hear from)?

  • Survivors and those who have come to harm through conversion therapy should be at the forefront of any decision making.
  • LGBTQIA+ rights groups and mental health experts should also be invited to provide evidence and inform the committee on the best approach to supporting survivors.
  • Legal expertise from those with experience in implementing Scottish law in similar areas, for example in domestic abuse, hate crime, and coercive control legislation should be considered to examine the possible application and impact of a criminal ban.