It’s unbelievable to think that in a nation where the vast majority supports gay marriage, up until yesterday there were still two Australian states that upheld the “gay panic” defence – allowing people who had committed murder to get away with it if a gay man had come onto them.
Queensland has now abolished the archaic defence following a vote in state parliament, leaving South Australia as the only remaining Australian state to retain the legal provision. The legal loophole allows murder charges committed following unwanted homosexual advances to be downgraded to manslaughter.
Victorian, Tasmanian, Northern Territory and ACT parliaments blocked the gay panic defence over a decade ago, followed by WA in 2008 and NSW in 2014.
While South Australia has a turbulent history with gay hate crimes, same sex couples living in the state are set to have adoption and relationship rights approved after bills were passed in December last year.
Yet many SA politicians are still calling for the “offensive” gay panic laws to be overhauled. It allows for unwanted homosexual advance to have their sentence reduced to manslaughter.
"Queensland has announced it is going to get rid of it, every other state and territory has gotten rid of it, South Australia needs to step up and get rid of gay panic," Greens MLC Tammy Franks said.
"The idea that a murder charge can be downgraded to manslaughter simply because a gay man made a sexual advance ... and that should justify him being killed and not being considered murder is offensive."
The push to abolish the defence in Queensland was spearheaded by priest Father Paul Kelly after the fatal 2008 bashing of Wayne Ruks in his church yard, after which the killers raised the defence at trial.
"I've made it my mission to see this revolting law abolished," he said last year. "It belongs in the dark ages."
Father Kelly told the Brisbane Times he was happy Queensland had finally ditched the law but was surprised it took so long.
“So many people said this was a no-brainer and that it was clearly an archaic law, so I did feel the resistance to it was an ideological one,” he said. “It's been a long, long journey.”
Father Kelly said his campaign had stretched to South Australia and he called on the government once again to follow suit.