Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry image.net

Stephen Fry backs Kelly's petition

ALMOST 11,000 people, including British comedian Stephen Fry, have signed a petition by Maryborough priest Paul Kelly asking for the so-called "gay panic" defence to be erased from Queensland laws.

Fr Kelly attracted worldwide media attention after launching an online campaign two weeks ago, to close a legal loophole allowing allegations of a homosexual advance to be used as a legal defence for murder.

Yesterday, member for Maryborough Chris Foley - who has previously come under fire by the gay community for his opposition to civil unions - added his name to the thousands in support of the legal overhaul.

"I have no hatred or dislike for gay people, and I totally reject the notion that any Christian would hate gays," Mr Foley said.

"It is ridiculous that this can be used as a defence for bashing or killing someone."

LNP member for Hervey Bay Ted Sorensen, who also voted against civil unions, promised Fr Kelly he would table the petition in parliament if it reached 10,000 - a mark it soared past yesterday afternoon, reaching 10,860 signatures by 5pm.

Actor and prolific Twitter user Stephen Fry, who starred in cult comedies including Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster, promoted the link to the Change.org petition to his 3.7 million followers yesterday. Facebook users have also flooded the page of LNP figurehead Campbell Newman with requests for him to support the law change.

Fr Kelly, from St Mary's Catholic Parish, Maryborough, said he had been overwhelmed by the response.

"Some people have said they were surprised because they thought the Catholic Church hates gay people, but in fact it's about human rights and justice for all people," Fr Kelly said.

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, before Fr Kelly's petition was announced.

"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," Mr Lucas said.

But Fr Kelly said this was not enough - he believes the defence should be scrapped altogether because even if not accepted, it may pollute a jury's deliberations by inflaming biases.

He said Queensland was one of the last state governments to abolish similar laws, and called on the Queensland Parliament to forbid non-violent homosexual advance being treated as evidence in any murder trial.

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

To sign the petition, visit change.org and search for "homosexual advance".



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