Minister defends Germany's limited gay therapy ban

by Reuters
Thursday, 7 May 2020 15:08 GMT

FILE PHOTO: William (L) and Jens, due to marry on October 5, kiss at the Christopher Street Day (CSD) parade in Berlin, June 22, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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Critics say the anticipated new law does not offer enough protection to young LGBT+ people

BERLIN, May 7 (Reuters) - Germany's ban on so-called gay conversion therapies needs to be robust enough to withstand court challenges, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in response to criticism that his proposed law would not protect young adults.

The Bundestag is expected later on Thursday to pass a law that will ban the therapies, which purport to turn gay people straight, but which critics say perpetuate the harmful myth that being gay is a disease

But the Greens, who in 2013 were the first to call for a ban, say the conservative-Social Democrat coalition's proposal falls short since it protects only minors from the practice, even though those aged between 18 and 26 can also be exposed to harmful social pressures.

Spahn, the conservative health minister, said ahead of the vote that he wanted a law that could easily withstand legal challenge.

"I want a ban which will be robust, including if it's brought before the courts," said Spahn, who is the Christian Democrat party's most prominent gay politician.

"Young people are being forced into conversion therapies," he added, "and so it is very important that they should find support in the existence of this law: a clear signal that the state does not want this to happen."

Spahn was not specific, but German law makes it easier to protect minors, whereas freedom of speech and conscience laws may confuse the issue for those above 18.

Conversion therapies are banned in much of South America, in Switzerland and in many U.S. states, and bans are planned in much of the rest of the United States and Europe.

Advocates say bans spare young people pain and suffering at being harassed and humiliated because of their sexuality, an experience which has led to suicide.

Germany has been slower in reaching some key milestones on the road towards sexual equality, introducing marriage equality only in 2017, long after many other countries.

The Greens, running the conservatives a distant second in current polls, called for the current proposal to be strengthened to protect at least those aged up to 26, to protect young adults from being badgered by close family into opting for a procedure they neither want nor need.

"Only minors are to be protected from this life-endangering charlatanry," Green legislators wrote. "At the very least young people aged between 18 and 26 need comparable protection, as is shown by the experiences of coming-out and many young people's dependence on their families." (Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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