Renewed efforts to change legal loopholes in Queensland that allow for the so-called ‘gay panic’ defence are being led by a surprising source, a Catholic priest.

Father Paul Kelly has started an online petition to lobby the Bligh Government to change laws that allow the possibility of a reduced sentence in assaults where a homosexual advance is used as a defence.

More than 7000 people have already signed the petition on Change.org

“I’m utterly appalled that a law that so revoltingly and openly discriminates against gay people is still tolerated in a modern society,” Kelly said.

“Laws like the ‘gay panic’ defence are a crucial part of legitimising and reinforcing a culture of hate which means that 73 percent of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality.

“Queensland is now one of the last states upholding the idea that a person can be panicked enough by homosexual people to justify grievously bashing them to the point that they die, no matter how mild the alleged action.”

Kelly became aware of the loophole when a man was murdered outside his Maryborough church in 2008 and the gay panic defence was used to try and reduce the accused’s sentence.

Liberal National Party MP Ted Sorensen has promised Kelly he will take the issue to Parliament if the petition hits 10,000 signatures.

A 2010 amendment to the state’s criminal code was touted by the Government as a solution to loopholes in the law regarding violence in retaliation to verbal advances from gay men, but it’s not believed to have any affect on criminal cases where reaction to a physical advance is used as a defence.

Kelly said discussions with the Attorney General’s department indicated the Bligh government was not prepared to go far enough to close the loophole.

“The mere introduction of this evidence arguably pollutes jury deliberations. That’s why I am calling on the Queensland Parliament and LNP leader Campbell Newman to eliminate this law as a partial defence for murder,” he said

“Given the failure of the Government to act, the petition is an opportunity for the Opposition Leader to take a positive step towards reducing discrimination and violence towards gay and lesbian people in Queensland.”

You can sign the petition here.

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