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Scottish plans on 'conversion practices' ban described as "jellyfish legislation"

19 February 2024
Scotland holyrood edinburgh

A senior lawyer has raised concerns about potential state overreach related to the SNP’s proposed ban on "conversion practices" in Scotland.

The legislation aims to criminalise efforts to "change or suppress" an individual's gender identity, with penalties of up to seven years in jail for parents who refuse to allow their children to change gender.

Critics argue the law could unjustly target pastors, parents, and counsellors, particularly those not adopting an affirmative approach towards gender identity changes.

The Scottish government is currently consulting on the proposals, which are under scrutiny until 2 April.

Aidan O'Neill KC, in a legal opinion for The Christian Institute, criticised the bill as "ill-thought out."

He described it as "jellyfish legislation" for its vague definitions and severe penalties, suggesting it would scare individuals from discussing gender identity issues due to fear of legal repercussions.

He said, “The concepts it uses are impossible to grasp; its limits are wholly undefined; it contains a sting in the tail in the form of criminal sanction of up to seven years and unlimited fines; and thus it will have an undoubted and intended effect of dissuading persons from ever even entering the now murky waters of what may or may not constitute unlawful 'conversion practices'.

He continues, "The proposals which the Scottish Government has consulted on would, if passed into law, effect radical changes in the current law. They will also involve a marked intrusion and expansion in the powers of the State into the private realm of families, and over the expression of orthodox religious teaching by faith groups."

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, branded the potential criminalisation of pastors and parents as "outrageous" and indicated that the organisation would challenge the legislation up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"This is another example of the Scottish Government asking Holyrood to exceed its powers and impose draconian legislation on the people. If this deeply flawed law is passed it will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary," he said.

He added, "They've spent over two years drafting this. It's time to admit that no-one can define what conversion therapy is, let alone how to criminalise it."

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