Father Paul Kelly, the Queensland Catholic priest who has fought to get the state’s so-called “gay panic” defence abolished, has slammed the Australian Christian Lobby’s “disturbing” opposition to changing the law.
The partial legal defence allows those accused of murder to attempt to reduce a charge down to manslaughter if they claim the violence was triggered by an unwanted homosexual advance.
An amendment bill introduced to the state parliament by the Queensland government in November would stop a person accused of murder from using an “unwanted sexual advance” – either homosexual or heterosexual – as a defence of provocation except in “circumstances of exceptional character”.
In a parliamentary committee hearing into the bill late last month, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Queensland director Wendy Francis opposed the change, saying violence against LGBTI people was abhorrent but the government’s “gay panic” reforms would have “unintended consequences” for women.
“If we remove this, what we are saying is that groping a woman is okay. We are actually removing something,” she said.
“At the moment, groping a woman is not okay. I think there are unintended consequences… We are not changing [the law] from gendered to non-gendered; it is already non-gendered.
“Women are the ones who have to be careful where we park, women are the ones who have to make sure that we don’t go out after dark or walk alone, women are the ones who naturally take care of their safety because we know we actually can’t punch back.
“Removing this from law is actually discriminatory against women, that is my concern. Men didn’t grow up with that feeling, women grew up knowing that we just had to take extra precautions.”
Carolyn McNally, acting director of Strategic Policy at the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, told the committee the government’s amendments took into account victims of domestic violence, for example, for whom a sexual advance “often precipitates more severe abuse.”
“The court is entitled to look at whether there is a history of violence between the accused and the deceased and also whether or not there is a history of sexual contact between the two,” she said.
Ms McNally said an unwanted homosexual advance on its own would not be a “circumstance of an exceptional character”, addressing earlier concerns about the wording of the amendment.
Father Paul Kelly first got involved in what would become a years-long crusade to get the “gay panic” defence scrapped after Wayne Ruks (pictured, inset) was killed on the grounds of his Maryborough church in 2008 and the defence was raised in court.
His Change.org petition to abolish the defence received 290,000 signatures, and now he’s worried the ACL’s “disturbing” submission to parliament will undo the progress towards changing the law.
“Just as we reach the cusp of finally scrapping ‘gay panic’ the Australian Christian Lobby have started lobbying to KEEP this homophobic defence for murder,” Father Kelly wrote in an update on Change.org.
“The Christian Lobby’s position that ending the ‘gay panic’ law would say ‘It’s okay to grope women’ is shameful. It’s morally and legally wrong.
“We can’t allow another delay, and we can’t allow another murder to be excused.”
Father Kelly delivered his Change.org petition’s signatures to Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath in November, and has now called on everyone to email state Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls asking his party to maintain its support for the amendments.
The committee is expected to report on Tuesday.
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