The Queensland Parliament has passed legislation to remove the so-called “gay panic” defence from the state’s Criminal Code.
The partial legal defence allowed 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.
On Tuesday night an amendment bill was passed to change Section 304 of the Criminal Code to stop a person accused of murder from claiming an “unwanted sexual advance” – either homosexual or heterosexual – as a defence of provocation except in “circumstances of exceptional character”.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath (pictured) said the legislation addressed an unacceptable legal inequality, and while Section 304 itself was gender-neutral it had been established in common law that homosexual advances could be used.
“Queensland’s Criminal Code must not be seen to condone violence against the gay community, or indeed any community,” she said.
“The passing of this legislation sends an important message that discrimination is not acceptable and that we value the LGBTI community.”
The changes were passed with the support of the LNP opposition, with amendments they proposed to define the term “circumstances of exceptional character” narrowly defeated.
“We’ll be supporting the amendments moved by the government to address this issue once and for all. For the sake of everyone being equal before the law we sincerely hope the issue is rectified,” Shadow Attorney-General Ian Walker told parliament.
Queensland Catholic priest Father Paul Kelly has campaigned for the defence to be abolished since Wayne Ruks was bashed and killed on his Maryborough church grounds in 2008.
His Change.org petition received over 290,000 signatures that were delivered to the Attorney-General in November.
“After five years of relentlessly campaigning for the ‘gay panic’ defence for murder to be scrapped from the legal books in Queensland, I can today breathe a sigh of relief and accomplishment,” Father Kelly said.
BREAKING: ‘Gay panic’ defence for murder abolished in QLD in one of biggest petition victories in Australia’s history-290k made this happen pic.twitter.com/N1HgHryDlP
— Change.org Australia (@ChangeAus) March 21, 2017
Wayne Ruks’ mother Joyce Kujala (pictured, below) said she’d waited eight years for this day and thanked everyone involved for their persistence.
“It can’t bring Wayne back but it’s some small justice and it could save a lot of lives in future,” she said.
South Australia is now the only state in Australia where a “gay panic” defence remains.