Queensland priest Father Paul Kelly’s Change.org petition to end the “gay panic” legal loophole in his state has now attracted more than 16,500 supporters.

The petition was given a significant boost this week when British comedian Stephen Fry used his Twitter account to back the move.

Father Kelly started the campaign to end the loophole that allows people accused of murder to claim partial defence of provocation in relation to a homosexual advance following the brutal 2008 killing of a man in Kelly’s church grounds in Maryborough.

The defendants used the gay panic defence, claiming the victim came on to them and the sheer panic they felt was partial justification for murder.

Fry shared a link to the petition with his 3.7 million Twitter followers.

Liberal National Party MP Ted Sorensen has said 10,000 signatures was the trigger needed for him to take the issue to Parliament, but Queensland Attorney General Paul Lucas has signalled that he’d wait for an expert committee examining the loophole to report back before making any changes.

As well as Fry, fantasy writer and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman also urged his 1.7 million Twitter followers to sign the petition.

Meanwhile Maryborough Independent MP Chris Foley told his local paper: “I have no hatred or dislike for gay people, and I totally reject the notion that any Christian would hate gays. It is ridiculous that this can be used as a defence for bashing or killing someone.”

QLD Attorney General Paul Lucas said an expert committee to examine the partial defence of provocation in the context of homosexual advance had been announced on November 9 last year.

“The Queensland Government absolutely abhors any attack on anyone based on their sexual preference,” Lucas said.

“We referred the matter to the Queensland Law Reform Commission in 2008 and made recommended changes in April, 2011 which mean that laws around the use of the partial defence of provocation have been tightened.

“Not only are words alone not enough to use the defence, the onus of proof is on the defendant to prove that they were in fact provoked.”

Father Kelly accused Lucas of “splitting hairs and offering poor excuses for his failure to act on this archaic feature of Queensland law”.

“The fact is that alleged homosexual advance – or “gay panic” – can be and has been used as a partial defence to murder in Queensland,” Father Kelly said.

“This is because “non-violent sexual advance” as a reason for provocation remains a partial defence within Queensland law.

“True, non-violent sexual advance doesn’t distinguish between homosexual or heterosexual advance. But in practice, recent cases suggest it is only being used in the context of homosexuality. In other words, ‘gay panic’.

“This is a loophole. It can be easily fixed, either by removing or excepting explicitly by legislation ‘non-violent sexual advance’ as a defence or by abolishing the defence of provocation.

“Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania have all abolished the defence of provocation. While the Northern Territory, ACT and South Australia still have provocation on the books, amendments have been passed that prevent the defence being invoked in the context of nonviolent sexual advances. Effectively, the homosexual advance defence can now only be used in New South Wales and Queensland.

“This is what the Queensland Attorney-General refuses to acknowledge or act upon sufficiently.”

INFO: Stay up-to-date with Father Kelly’s petition here.