Australian Christian Lobby battles to keep ‘gay panic’ murder defence

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The Australian Christian Lobby is opposing the removal of the so-called ‘gay panic’ defence – which allows murderers to blame gay victims for violent crimes.

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 is making moves 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.

But the Australian Christian Lobby has made a submission to an inquiry on the issue, claiming that the removal of the gay panic defence would actually allow men to get away with rape – and insisting current law does not discriminate against gay men.

In a submission, ACL exec Wendy Frances said: “It is important to carefully examine any unintended negative consequences of changing the Qld law. I have spoken to a number of women’s organisations, including radical feminists, who oppose the change. Preserving the current law, which treats all equally, is seen as a much better option in terms of protecting women.

“The proposed changes will potentially compromise the defence of provocation for women with the requirement that the provocation be a serious indictable offence.

“This will make any defence of women who respond violently to sexual advances, much more difficult to achieve, and very restrictive. Because what this bill will achieve is to preclude actions which would constitute sexual assault from ‘provocation’.”

It claims: “Section 304 does not relate exclusively to the cases of homosexual advances… the effect of these changes on the entire Queensland community must therefore be considered carefully.

“The proposed changes may result in unforeseen and disproportionately adverse consequences for many accused of murder in Queensland.”

‘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”.

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.