Queensland priest relaunches campaign against ‘gay panic’ defence

A Queensland priest who started a campaign to have the ‘gay panic’ comprehensively removed from local law in Australia has relaunched his campaign.

Father Paul Kelly said he will keep fighting until the new Queensland Premier Campbell Newman drops the “archaic and discriminatory” law.

Campbell Newman’s conservative Liberal National Party took control of the Parliament from the Labor Party in March in the worst election result for a sitting government in Queensland’s history, announcing moves to ‘downgrade’ civil partnerships.

Father Paul Kelly’s campaign attracted more than 26,000 signatures and support from Stephen Fry and fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and the former Attorney General confirmed the rules surrounding the use of the defence would be tightened.

He has relaunched his campaign following remarks by the new Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie that changes to the gay panic law were unnecessary, saying the previous administration had used it as a “political football”.

The “gay panic” defence has been invoked by defendants in murder cases trying to downgrade their charge to manslaughter on the basis that the victim had made a gay proposition to them and they lost control of their actions.

Father Paul said that prior to the election, Campbell Newman referred to the recommendations of the previous government’s expert committee as “certainly worthy of sensible consideration and we will look at it”.

But Father Paul said the Attorney-General appeared to have sidelined the Premier by dismissing the need to implement the recommendations.

Father Paul said: “Sadly, it appears that the more extreme elements of the LNP have hijacked the party’s position on reforming this archaic law.

“The most uplifting aspect of my Change.org campaign was that it united disparate elements of the community – young and old, right and left, gay and straight – in speaking out against a discriminatory, offensive law.

“An expert committee looked at the issue and recommended changes – which were accepted by the previous government – to remove doubts about the use of the gay panic defence.

“The Premier appears to be going against the wishes of the public, with more than 75 per cent of Queenslanders saying in a Courier-Mail poll that the gay panic defence should be struck out.”

Father Paul started the original campaign on Change.org after the “gay panic” defence was used in the trial of two men charged with the 2008 murder of a man in Father Paul’s churchyard in Maryborough. The Labor Government agreed to change the law.

Father Paul is aiming for 40,000 signatures and he’s pledged to deliver the petition personally to Premier Newman if necessary.

Change.org Campaign Director Karen Skinner said the “gay panic” campaign was the biggest Queensland petition hosted on Change.org and one of the largest nationally. The provocation defence has been ruled out in the states of Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania.

The petition can be found at the Change.org website.