Chief Minister Andrew Barr has hit back at claims from religious groups that the definition of sexuality and gender identity conversion practices under a bill designed to outlaw these activities is too broad.
Representatives from the Chief Minister's office met with leaders from the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic churches on Friday where they raised concerns parents and other people responsible for the care of children could be charged under the bill.
Vicar general of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn Father Tony Percy said the church was not opposed to gender transitions or the banning of practices which attempted to forcibly change a person's sexual or gender orientation.
Father Percy said the laws as they were drafted were in favour of people who were assisting with a gender transition and amendments were needed to make the legislation less ambiguous.
"The legislation has to make it clear that parents or teachers or guardians can talk to children about these things and not be found in contravention of the laws," Fr Percy said.
An article published in the Catholic Voice on Wednesday claimed parents, teachers, social workers or other people working with children would be charged under the legislation for counselling a child to think carefully about gender transitioning.
It also said the ACT government was taking away the human rights of people who cared for children and vulnerable people.
Mr Barr said these statements were not correct and the definition targeted very specific practices.
"The bill specifically excludes from the definition of a conversion practice any assistance for a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition," Mr Barr said.
"That assistance may involve instruction on what their particular religious faith requires regarding these matters.
"It also provides that any practice offering acceptance, support or understanding, or that facilitates a person's coping skills, social support or identity exploration and development is not captured by the definition."
He said the bill also excluded health service providers who were providing a treatment to comply with their legal and professional obligations.
Australian Medical Association ACT president Dr Antonio Di Dio said the association strongly supported prohibiting conversion practices but the issues posed challenges for doctors.
"To their credit, the ACT government, with this new law, has attempted to strike a balance between prohibiting conversion practices and ensuring that the professional judgment of doctors can be exercised in the best interests of their patients," Dr Di Dio said.
"In the end, despite the best intentions of all concerned, we won't know how successful this balancing act has been until the new law is tested in operation."
A debate and vote on the bill is expected on August 28, which is the Legislative Assembly's final sitting day before the election.
Mr Barr indicated amendments would be made.
"The government is minded to add more information in the bill and the explanatory statement based on feedback by all stakeholders and the community," he said.
"Any additions will complement, rather than narrow, the very sound definition of conversion practices already contained in the legislation."
Fr Percy said the church was waiting to see the amendments.
"It's an incredibly delicate issue, there's no doubt about it," he said.