In a nationwide move towards addressing what many believe to be a deeply shameful and embarrassing scar on the nation’s human rights record, the Queensland Government has confirmed that it is examining the Senate’s resolution and considering further action.
The resolution recommended that all state and territories “pardon,” “quash” or “expunge” past convictions regarding homosexual acts. The law, that was enforced in Queensland until 1991, saw potential jail-time of up to 14 years, with men still being arrested as late as 1989.
A spokesperson confirmed to the Courier Mail this week that the issue was still under consideration by Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie. The wording of the Senate resolution has been carefully considered as states were warned they could be liable for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
Whilst compensation would be a matter for individuals, a leading community advocate and medical professional said that the laws had a “devastating effect” on convicted men, and that the issue brought back into light the state’s discriminatory LGBTI history that still continues to this day.
Dr Wendell Rosevear AOM personally cared for a couple from Western Queensland that were charged under the laws during the 1980s, resulting in one being imprisoned.
“It had devastating effects on both of them with years of depression and internalised conflict over self acceptance of being homosexual. It produced long standing social anxiety so that even now both find it hard to leave the house. It caused decades of relationship stress. Neither could work subsequently,” Dr Rosevear told the Star Observer
Despite the law being overturned in 1991, assault laws that turned a blind eye to male rape cases were only changed in 1997 – something that Dr Rosevear believes is the result of it being so ingrained into legal and social thought that it was acceptable to discriminate based on sexuality and gender.
Past laws condemning “non-normative” sexuality also had a devastating effect on managing the HIV/AIDS outbreak of the early 1980s in Queensland as men were petrified of getting tested and possibly having their sexuality exposed, Dr Rosevear said.
The ‘homosexual advance’ or ‘gay panic defence’, was used as recently as 2008 following the death of a Maryborough man.
“This still makes it hard for men to ask for help… If gays were valued equally in society in every realm, including relationships there would be not stigma. Stigma kills.”
Head of Harrington Family Lawyers and LGBTI advocate Stephen Page has welcomed the government’s consideration of purging past convictions.
“The proposal to quash convictions for those convicted of homosexual acts sounds very sensible and long overdue. Our country has moved on, as has world opinion,” Page told the Star Observer.
“True acceptance will only come from recognition of equality. This is a welcome step. The sooner this welcome change can be implemented, the better.”