The abhorrent legal defence of “gay panic” has finally been kicked out of Australia with South Australia becoming the last state to pass a legislation to abolish it late on Tuesday evening.
Gay Panic was a legal defence available to persons accused of murder. The legal argument allowed a murder charge to be downgraded to manslaughter and a lighter punishment, if the accused managed to prove that they were provoked to commit the crime in self defence or they were provoked by the victim’s homosexual advances.
“We’re glad to finally see this outdated law abolished. This announcement comes after years of advocacy from community members and supportive politicians of all parties. The news was swiftly met with celebration from many LGBTQI South Australians and we thank everyone who helped this Bill finally come to pass,” said Matthew Morris, Chair of the South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA), in a statement.
Over 38,000 people had signed an online petition by Equality Australia and SARAA that had urged the SA Parliament to outlaw the ‘gay panic defence’ and add hate crime provisions to the sentencing law.
“Laws that legitimise and excuse violent and lethal behaviour against any member of the LGBTQI community have no place anywhere in Australia. Attacking someone because who they are offends you should increase your punishment, not reduce it. Our laws should condemn prejudice, not condone it.”
South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman told the SA Parliament that the defence was “downright offensive” and discriminatory. “The defence has been criticised for being complex, gender-biased and for encouraging victim-blaming… Sometimes referred to as the ‘gay panic’ defence, it has been controversial in its use by accused persons who have perpetrated violence against members of the gay community,” said Chapman.
The legislation cleared the SA Parliament with support from opposition Labor and crossbench MPs.
Tasmania was the first state in Australia to ban the use of the gay panic defence in 2003, later followed by Victoria in 2005, Western Australia in 2008 and Queensland in 2017. NSW, ACT and the Northern Territory changed the law to say that non-violent sexual advances (both heterosexual and homosexual) could not be used as grounds for lesser charges. South Australia, the first state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality in 1975 was the only one that was yet to get rid of gay panic defence.