A senior Tory has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson for “breaching” trust after he backtracked on key pledges to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Crispin Blunt demanded the Prime Minister stop his “nonsense” after making a “series of unforced errors” that will alienate LGBT people and “wreck his reputation”.
Today’s broadside from Mr Blunt, chair of Parliament’s group on global LGBT rights, came as the Prime Minister opened up a “loophole” in his long-awaited law against so-called conversion therapy.
Mr Johnson told church leaders “non-coercive” support for gay people – including praying over their sexuality – will escape a ban.
In a newly-unveiled letter to the Evangelical Alliance, dated March 27, Mr Johnson said he wanted to “end the scourge of gay conversion therapy” but added: “We will continue to allow adults to receive appropriate pastoral support (including prayer) in churches and other religious settings in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity.”
Critics say the line between “coercive” and “non-coercive” conversion therapy is blurred and accused the Prime Minister of opening up a “loophole”.
Stonewall chief executive Nancy Kelley said: “Conversion therapy is a cruel practice that tries to ‘cure’ or change someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
“Any ban that has loopholes for any type of practice – including religious practices – will leave vulnerable LGBTQIA+ people at risk of further harm.
“It’s vital the UK Government puts forward a full legal ban.”
Campaigner Damian Barr added: “Loopholes are being planned for churches, where most exorcisms and other horrors happen. This is not about freedom to worship: it’s about freedom to live.”
The row came as the government disbanded its LGBT advisory panel – after three members quit in protest over conversion therapy and transgender rights.
As well as the row over conversion therapy, ex-panellists have accused ministers of “vilifying” trans people by dropping plans to make it easier to change their legal gender.
Downing Street today insisted the panel members’ terms were always due to end on March 31 and the PM was “immensely proud to live” in a progressive country.
But Tory MP Mr Blunt condemned the Prime Minister over the string of broken promises.
He said: “The government is led by one of the most socially liberal, live and let live leaders in our history.
“Yet it is making a series of unforced errors that will serve to wholly unnecessarily alienate LGBT+ people and do untold damage to his reputation.”
He added: “The PM is in breach of promise on causes he supports.
“This nonsense must be put right before it does lasting real damage to LGBT+ people around the world and wrecks his reputation and torpedoes the values of Global Britain on human rights before we’ve even begun to establish them.
“It’s hardly the moment to dispose of your expert advisers.”
Fellow Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, told the Mirror: “It is the wrong time to disband the panel with no obvious timetable to replace it with something else.
“We are still waiting for clear action on banning conversion therapy, and the UK which has been seen as a leading country for LGBTQ rights across the globe risks going backwards.
“The Government cannot afford to keep losing good people.”
Anger over the government’s handling of trans rights and conversion therapy has been building for years.
Last year Tory ministers scrapped plans to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender after a three-year fight. Trans people will still need a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”, evidence they have lived in their assumed gender for two years, agreement from their spouse, and to have their bid approved by a panel of medics and judges.
Tory MPs have also been demanding clear plans to end conversion therapy – a pledge first made in July 2018.
A spokesperson for the government’s Equality Hub said: “This government is fully committed to advancing LGBT rights and championing equality, having legalised same-sex marriage and introduced one of the world’s most comprehensive legislative frameworks for protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
“We have made clear that we will take action to stamp out conversion therapy in this country. We have engaged with a variety of stakeholders as part of this process and will bring forward proposals shortly.”