The National Party’s youth wing, the NZ Young Nats, have spoken out against its own party for voting against legislation to ban conversion therapy.
On August 5th, the New Zealand Parliament had its first reading of the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. At the first reading, National was the only political party to vote against the legislation.
Conversion therapy practices aim to change a persons sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, despite this not being possible. The practice is widely denounced, with studies attributing it to causing depression, relationship dysfunction, highly negative self-image, and suicide. Conversion therapy is illegal in many countries worldwide, such as Germany and Ecuador.
Prior to the bill reading, National revealed that they would only support the legislation if it was changed to protect parents from prosecution. In response, National’s youth wing, the Young Nats, posted a Twitter thread calling for the party to change their decision. The seven-tweet thread states “we are deeply disappointed that the National caucus has decided to vote against the legislation”, and calls for the National Party’s support on the issue.
The youth wing say they agree the document had not reached its perfect form yet, but that it is more important to allow the discussion to take place to address the “irreparable harm to those within our rainbow communities”. The Young Nats ended their Twitter thread stating “the Young Nats will always stand up and advocate for the issues that matter to young New Zealanders within the National Party”.
National Party leader Judith Collins told Newstalk ZB that the party will not be dictated by the youth wing, and that she’ll agree to disagree on the issue. “The National Party caucus is often offside with our youth wing on various issues. They are far more progressive culturally and socially, than the majority of MPs.”
Other members of the National Party have also stated that they oppose the bill due to disagreement over the wording of the legislation, not its intention. National MP Chris Bishop posted on Twitter saying “I strongly support banning conversion therapy” but the party “has determined [they] can’t support the bill it its current form”. Simon Bridges’, National Party’s justice spokesperson, in-house speech was a prior testament to this Tweet and added that there should be an amendment to rule out prosecutions for parents.
At National’s Annual General Meeting on August 7th, President of the Young Nats, Stephanie-Anne Ross, addressed party members, MPs, the board and party leader Judith Collins. The meeting was closed to the media, however those in attendance reported that Ross’ speech emphasised the disappointment felt by the Young Nats regarding the decision and received a standing ovation.
During the gathering some National MPs wore rainbow ribbons handed out by the Young Nats, which aimed to show that some of the party’s more liberal members were supportive of the bill, but were unable to vote in favour of the bill as they were a minority in the caucus.
The Young Nats did not respond to requests for comment from Craccum, and have not publicly spoken out since the first reading.