National Party MPs say they are staunchly against gay conversion therapy practices but stand by opposing a bill banning them because of concerns that parents could face prosecution.
The bill was supported at first reading last week by all parties except for National, even though its position was similar to Act's, which supported the bill to select committee in the hope it would be improved.
National decided to vote as a caucus even though some of its MPs, including Chris Bishop, would have preferred to support the bill at first reading.
Bishop's voting preference was made public after he sent a private message over Twitter that was subsequently published.
"Yeah, me too," Bishop said in reply to a message saying "hated your vote on conversion therapy".
Today Bishop said it wasn't a message he intended the public to see.
"It's disappointing that private conversations are being leaked out."
He wouldn't say whether he was comfortable with how he voted.
"I'm confident that we can get the bill into a position where the caucus can support it. National abhors the practice of conversion therapy. It's unscientific, it doesn't work, and obviously it has a terrible effect on particularly young people in our rainbow communities.
"We want it banned. But we've got to make sure it's being done the right way."
National Party leader Judith Collins said Bishop's private message on Twitter only said what the party was already saying.
"We would like to support the bill but can't do it when the Government can't even answer the straight question of whether parents would be criminalised for trying to advise their 12-year-old child not to take puberty blockers."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that a prosecution in that scenario would be "very unlikely".
But Collins said that wasn't good enough, and denied she was scare-mongering by repeatedly asking questions about that scenario.
"We're not going to support parents being criminalised for trying to tell their 12-year-old they're worried about them taking puberty blockers.
"I will not support parents being criminalised for being parents. Sort it out and then we can support it."
The bill would introduce two criminal offences, one for performing a conversion practice that causes serious harm, and one for doing so on an under 18-year-old or a person lacking decision-making capacity.
Any prosecution had to meet the definition of a practice, and would need to be signed off by the Attorney-General.
However, National Party whip Matt Doocey said parents should face prosecution if they seriously harmed their children.
He said voting against the bill at first reading didn't meant the party supported conversion therapy practices.
"I can be clear, as the [party's] mental health spokesperson, there is no way we would support gay conversion therapy."
National MP Erica Stanford wouldn't say how she would have voted if it had been a conscience vote.
"It's not something I'm willing to talk to you about .. I'm part of a united caucus, and that's the way that we voted.
"I always have been a massive supporter of that [LBGTQ] community. And I've made it very clear that I do not support gay conversion therapy."
MP Nicola Willis rejected the idea that the party was implicitly supporting gay conversion therapy by voting against the bill.
"National opposes conversion therapy. And I want to get a very clear message to young New Zealanders, whether they are gay, transgender, non-binary - I support your identity, I support your right to express it."
Bishop, Doocey, Stanford and Willis were among the MPs who wore rainbow ribbons - supplied by the party's youth wing - at the party's conference at the weekend in a show of support for banning conversion therapy.
At the weekend Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said National's position on the bill was "hypocritical".
"Why didn't they just support us at the first reading, instead of playing politics in a way that actually continues to harm people who are already struggling to be seen as valid parts of our families and communities? That's quite a despicable approach to politics."
Greens co-leader James Shaw added that National MPs who wanted to support the bill should have just crossed the floor.
"They should have just had the courage of their convictions. They look like they didn't have any moral compass or any convictions."