BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia — Fiona Simpson, a member of the Queensland Parliament, who is actively seeking a ministerial position in a Liberal National Party government that would entail responsibilities for community services and women’s services agencies, is being criticized for a 2002 speech where she said that “people can grow out of the homosexual lifestyle thanks to efforts by “compassionate” support groups” such as Exodus Ministries International.
Community Services Minister Karen Struthers branded Simpson’s previous comments as “way out of touch and patronizing,” and said the promotion of Exodus was disturbing.
“She seeks to be the minister of an agency who will have responsibility for funding organizations, and it’s very clear her views are very supportive of groups like Exodus,” Struthers said.
Simpson’s 2002 speech was revisited as the renewed debate in state politics this week over same-sex relationships and marriage equality was raised with Queensland’s Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser championing a bill to allow same-sex civil unions to be registered in Queensland.
Simpson has dismissed previous and current criticism of her views as “another distraction” and insisted she had been “verballed.”
She has not respond to questions about whether she still thought homosexuality was something people could outgrow.
Struthers also lashed out at Simpson and her party for opposing the Deputy Premier’s civil partnerships legislation, which would allow same-sex as well as straight couples to register their relationships in the state.
According to The Brisbane Times, during debate on anti-discrimination law changes in November 2002, Simpson said gays and lesbians should be shown “compassion and understanding” and then she discussed the work of Exodus:
“I wanted to make members aware that, based on my information from some of the former homosexuals I know, there is a compassionate ministry called Exodus.
“I have a number of acquaintances who have worked with Exodus. Today I was talking with a particular gentleman who is a former homosexual. They have a compassionate understanding and a desire to get alongside people who choose and who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle. This is about offering them options and not imposing only one set of values on other people.
“Their mission is to support people who want to not live a homosexual lifestyle, but they also give them the freedom to grow into heterosexuality over time.”
Struthers said Simpson appeared to be implying that homosexual people had a problem and should get counseling to grow out of it.
Paul Martin, executive director of Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, whose organization promotes healthy living within the Queensland LGBTQ communities, said attempts to “cure” homosexuality generally led to further harm and family problems down the track.
According to its website, Exodus International is a Christian evangelical ministry that aims to help men and women “find a way out of the sexual brokenness of homosexuality” but warns the journey may take years.
Earlier this month, John Smid, the former Executive Director of Exodus International’s oldest ministry “Love in Action,” publicly admitted that he is gay, and now says that being LGBTQ is an intrinsic part of a person’s being, not a “behavior” that one can repent from.