It’s about bloody time. Queensland have finally abolished the incredibly controversial gay panic defence, with the petition to overturn it reaching 290,000 signatures.
The very fucked up partial defence could be used by accused murderers to claim that they acted out because of unwanted sexual advances from an LGBT person. Basically, anyone who used the defence successfully would be found guilty of manslaughter, as opposed to facing a life in jail.
It may come as a shock, but both Queensland and South Australia still considered the gay panic defence a valid legal tool – until now. While SA still have a long way to go, the Sunshine State passed a bill in Parliament to remove the defence from the legal system.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath noted that, while section 304 of the Criminal Code (where the defence stems from) is, in fact, gender neutral, it had been appropriated through common law to refer specifically to unwanted gay advances.
“This is unacceptable, this does not reflect modern societal views about criminal responsibility and about the expectation to exercise control.
“An unwanted sexual advance… cannot be enough, other than in circumstances in an exceptional character, to reduce criminal responsibility for killing a person with murderous intent”.
Other pollies voiced their satisfaction in the defence being overturned; commenting on how much it marginalised the LGBT community. “There is no such thing as gay panic, it’s just another term for hate”, said Member for Mount Coot-tha, Steven Miles. Similarly, Mark Bailey, Member for Yeerongpilly, described it as “an archaic law that is a licence for violence”.
“It is a matter for equal rights”.
The petition for reform came in 2008, and was started by Father John Kelly after a man named Wayne Ruks was beaten up and killed on his church grounds. Joyce Kujala – the mother of Ruks – thanked everyone for the “persistence in pushing today’s outcome”.
“It can’t bring Wayne back but it’s some small justice and it could save a lot of lives in the future”, she said.
Right on, Joyce. While the defence may still be used in “exceptional circumstances”, it’s a much-needed step in the right direction – especially since the LNP have been looking to cull the defence since 2015.
Your move, South Australia.
Photo: Getty / Scott Barbour.