I’m regularly get emails from Change.org, which is a website that allows people to start petitions on social issues that they think need to be addressed. It’s actually a pretty good site because it works on a local, national and global level and, like Avaaz, provides a voice to people that might not otherwise have one.
Today I got one from them that I was sure had to be spam, or an urban myth at best. This one was a petition to get the Queensland government to amend the law that allows what is called the Gay Panic, or Homosexual Advance, defence. To quote the petition ‘A loophole in Queensland law allows people accused of murder to defend themselves in court by claiming “gay panic” — that is, if someone who they think is gay “comes onto” them, the sheer panic they feel is partial justification for murder.’ Now, you can see how I might have thought this was a piss-take. I mean seriously, you beat a guy to death because he came on to you? Or you shoot a classmate the day after he flirted with you. And you expect to get away with it?
So I did a bit of research; and sadly it exists and they do get away with it; and not just in Queensland! If you read this article you’ll find that one of the reasons that gay panic defences are used is, and I quote, ‘because they often work’. I can see how the defence might be used to explain an extreme reaction in the some circumstance, like someone who had suffered years of homosexual abuse as a child for instance. But a quick internet search will show you that it is used in some pretty spurious cases, like just about any time someone chooses to murder or beat up a gay person. Take, for example the Mixed Martial Arts fighter who used it as a defence for beating the crap out of a guy he supposedly woke up in bed with!
Thankfully, the defence has been written out of the law in a lot of places, in both Australia and around the world. For instance in the UK lawyers are apparently told by the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales that “The fact that the victim made a sexual advance on the defendant does not, of itself, automatically provide the defendant with a defence of self-defence for the actions that they then take.” But that still doesn’t stop people trying.
Anyway, this is kind of a long winded way of saying this needs to be stopped. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about homosexuality, it shouldn’t be an excuse for murder. Or assault. Or anything really.