30 March 2017, The Tablet

Catholic priest wins long campaign to outlaw use of 'gay panic' defence to murder

State lawmakers in Queensland amend law that allowed the murder of gay men to be commuted to manslaughter

A Queensland priest's long campaign to scrap a law that allowed “gay panic” as a partial defence for murder in the State has succeeded.

State Parliament amended the law on 21 March by removing unwanted sexual advances as a partial defence of provocation for murder.

Several MPs, including Queensland Attorney-General and Justice Minister Ms Yvette D'Ath, praised Surfers Paradise associate pastor Fr Paul Kelly's role in ensuring the repeal of the "gay panic" defence.

"I was very proud to stand with Father Kelly on the day that we announced that we would be introducing this bill and he is very pleased to see that we are debating this and — from what I can see, further amendment or not — importantly passing this very important reform," D'Ath told Parliament.

Kelly told Brisbane's Catholic Leader newspaper that he “never doubted” he was fighting for a just cause – the Christian principle of absolute respect for human life and protection against violence and hatred.

He had campaigned to change the law after Wayne Ruks was attacked and died in the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Maryborough, Queensland, where he was serving as parish priest in 2008.

The men who killed Ruks were convicted of manslaughter rather than murder when the "gay panic" defence was invoked.

Kelly started an online petition that attracted almost 290,000 signatures after two men were tried and found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder, using the defence.

“It sent a terrible implicit message out that tapped into deep intolerance which allowed people to think that it’s understandable that some prejudices excuse people who overreact in a violent way to even the most minor or even misinterpreted or alleged actions,” Kelly said.

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