Father Paul Kelly is a Catholic priest, and he has taken up the fight to have the allegation of homosexual advance struck from Queensland’s law books as a defense for murder. His campaign to get that struck as a defense for murder began when a man was murdered on his church’s grounds in Maryborough in July 2008.
The defense for the man who committed the murder was that the victim had made an advance on the man, and that was used to try and downgrade the charges to manslaughter. It did not work, but it shocked Father Kelly that it could even be used.
Kelly stated that “It’s extremely upsetting and worrying, I was following the trial with great interest and then there was this talk that he (the victim) had made some sort of homosexual advance. I never heard of something so terrible, that there is some kind of defense that says if you make a homosexual advance then that can be used in court. I just can’t believe in this day and age that can be any kind of defense to hurting someone.”
The Brisbane Times noted that “Father Kelly has now launched an online petition to lobby the state government to have the law changed. The petition was launched last week and after enough signatures are garnered Father Kelly plans to take it to the Premier and LNP leader Campbell Newman.”
Father Kelly has stated that his main reason for wanting that defense struck from the law is that an “homosexual advance should never be used as an excuse for violence”, but he has other reasons including the fact that using it could prejudice the jury even if the allegations were proven to be false.
Father Kelly told the newspaper that “By mentioning (homosexuality) might be a factor, it seems to increase the tolerance that violence has been used. I find that pretty astounding.” He also hopes that no one will find it odd that a Catholic priest was campaigning to change this law saying “The church has always defended basic human rights, it’s never said intolerance or violence should be tolerated. It’s a powerful mix of paranoia and intolerance that means people can get their charge downgraded to manslaughter if there was a homosexual advance. It’s not about gay rights, it’s about human rights.”
While Attorney General Paul Lucas said back in April that the passing of the Criminal Code and Ohter Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 had closed loopholes around such defenses. He said in response to the calls for change that “No longer can mere words alone, including gay or straight advances, be sufficient for the defence of provocation, except in the most extreme and exceptional circumstances.”
The Brisbane Times, though, found someone who disagrees and noted that “senior law lecturer in law at the University of Newcastle, Alan Berman, said the concept of ‘exceptional circumstances’ was open to interpretation and could include ‘a non-violent homosexual advance.’” Dr. Berman also said “Exceptional circumstances could be a gay proposition. And in most cases [defence counsel] allege it wasn’t only a verbal proposition but they might have gently touched them, or touched their leg and it might have sent them into a fit of rage.”
Mr Lucas has announced a committee to examine whether or not there was a need for more changes to the laws, but that committee will not report back until the end of January.