Wednesday, 11 January 2012

SPEAK NOW to protest the 'gay panic' defence in Queensland

“Yeah, I killed him, but he did worse to me.” These are the words of a man who reacted to some “gentle touching” from a gay man by ramming his victim’s head against a wall until he was unrecognisable, and then stabbing him to death [1]. 
This infamous 1997 case enshrined the “gay panic” defence in Queensland law -- allowing accused murderers to have charges downgraded if their victim was gay and “came onto” them. Just two years ago, a man was brutally killed in Father Paul Kelly’s church yard, and his killers used this same defence. They were subsequently acquitted of murder [2].
Father Kelly was horrified that this argument was even allowed in court, and wrote to the government along with thousands of others -- they didn’t respond. But with the Liberal National Party likely to win power in the March state election, there’s new hope. Father Kelly has started a petition calling on LNP leader Campbell Newman to abolish the law if he’s elected, and insiders say the party is already wavering.
A recent study named Queensland as Australia’s most homophobic state, and anti-gay violence is reportedly on the rise [3]. Laws like the “gay panic” defence are a crucial part of legitimising and reinforcing a culture which means that 73% of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality [4]. 
While fierce community opposition has convinced almost all other state governments to abolish similar laws, the outcry has fallen on deaf ears in Queensland. It’s now one of the last states upholding the idea that a person can be panicked enough by gay and lesbian people to justify murder. Thousands like Father Kelly are fed up with the inaction -- it’s the perfect moment for Newman to take a stand and promise to deliver where the current government has failed.
This could be the best chance Queensland will have for years to fix what law expert Alan Berman calls a “repulsive and dangerous partial defence”. If thousands of people speak out now, it will force Newman to commit to closing the loophole -- and take meaningful steps towards reducing discrimination and violence towards gay and lesbian people in Queensland. 
Thanks for being part of this,
Nathan and the Change. org team

[1] Courier Mail, “Law says it's not murder if the victim is gay and "comes on to you"
[2] Brisbane Times, “Men jailed over churchyard 'homosexual' bashing death”
[3] Anti-gay violence on the rise
Queensland Australia’s most homophobic state
[4] Dr Alan Berman, legal expert and co-author of a study into homophobic violence in Queensland is an online advocacy platform that empowers anyone, anywhere to start, join, and win campaigns for social change. Millions of people sign petitions on each month on thousands of issues, winning campaigns every day to advance change locally and globally.