‘Gay panic’ murder defence finally scrapped in Queensland
Queensland, Australia has scrapped the controversial ‘gay panic’ defence – despite opposition from anti-LGBT Christian campaigners.
The defence – which allows criminals to get more lenient sentences after violent murders – is based around the suggestion that a perpetrator was “panicked” into committing a violent crime due to an unwanted advance from a gay person.
The law has been removed from the statute books across most of Australia, with Queensland and South Australia only jurisdictions that continue to permit the defence.
The government of Queensland this week passed legislation to repeal the section of the Criminal Code that lowers the sentence for crimes committed in “the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation” from a homosexual advance.
The legislation received bipartisan support, despite opposition from the anti-LGBT Australian Christian Lobby, which claimed the change was actually an attack on women’s rights.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the legislation addressed an unacceptable inequality.
Mrs D’Ath said: “Queensland’s criminal code must not be seen to condone violence against the gay community, or indeed any community.
“The passing of this legislation sends an important message that discrimination is not acceptable and that we value the LBGTI community.”
“Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of human rights and the amendment to section 304 will ensure that this provision operates equally for all members of our community,”
The amendment has been welcomed by Father Paul Kelly, who has campaigned for change since Wayne Ruks was bashed and killed in his Maryborough church ground in 2008.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that the 290,000 signatures on my change.org petition and support from Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath led to the axing of this homophobic, archaic and outdated law,” Father Kelly said.
“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,” he said.
Wayne Ruks’ mother Joyce Kujala said she had waited eight years for this day.
“Thank you for 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 future,” Mrs Kujala said.
‘Gay panic’ defences still exist in varying forms around the world, and in 2009 a man was acquitted of a double murder in Spain, after he claimed he burned down the home of an engaged gay couple due to “an unbearable fear”.
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The best-known case of the gay panic defence was in the murder of US student Matthew Shepard.
He was killed in October 1998 on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming, by two men he had met in a bar.
Local residents Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21 at the time, were charged with his murder.
The thugs attempted to argue in court that that they suffered “a moment of insanity” when Mr Shepard allegedly made sexual advances to him.
Shepard was robbed, beaten and left to die tied to a fence. Both men are serving consecutive double life sentences.