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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Equal opportunity flirt-slaying

I received an email this morning from Change.org:
"Yeah, I killed him, but he did worse to me." 
In 1997, a man in Queensland, Australia killed a gay man who he claimed flirted with him by bashing his head into a wall and stabbing him to death. Today, "gay panic" is still a legal defense for murder in Queensland that can result in lesser charges. 
In fact, just two years ago, a man was brutally killed in a Queensland churchyard, and his killer used the "gay panic" defense in court. He was subsequently acquitted of murder. 
Father Paul Kelly is a priest in the parish where that man was killed, and he started a petition on Change.org demanding that Queensland abolish the gay panic defense. It looked like Father Kelly's petition was headed for victory, but now there's a new Premier in Queensland, Campbell Newman, and he won't say whether he will abolish the gay panic loophole. 
Father Kelly thinks it's crucial to build quick international pressure on Premier Newman, particularly from important Australian allies like the US. 
A recent study named Queensland as Australia’s most homophobic state -- 73% of gay and lesbian Queenslanders are subjected to verbal abuse or physical violence for their sexuality. Father Kelly believes that if the gay panic defense stands, Queensland's gay community will be forced to live in terror knowing that the law is on their tormentors' side.
Upon clicking through to the petition, I saw that an update had been made:
Queensland's new Attorney-General has just said in media they won't end the "gay panic" defence -- instead saying any change is "unnecessary".
Yes, apparently he did say that, but that's not the most bizarre thing. Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said that it's "not a priority" to change the defense, and also that it's not appropriate to call it a gay panic defense because both sexes can use it:
I think we have to get this misconception out of everyone’s mind that this [is a] "gay panic" defence. It’s a Criminal Code defence open to any Queenslander regardless of sex.
So, two straight men have used the fact that they felt "provoked" by a non-violent sexual advance-- i.e., they were hit on-- by another man as justification for murdering that man, and did so successfully, but it shouldn't be considered a gay panic defense because apparently (for example) women can also use this defense if they murder a woman who hits on them, or...a man who hits on them.

Wow. Can you imagine if every woman who felt threatened-- or even "provoked"-- by being hit on by a man reacted with violence? To the point of murder? And was acquitted of that? In America, I would guess that every woman has been or will be sexually harassed at least once in her life, and about 1 in 5 have been raped. I hope I don't need to clarify that if 100% of women had been raped it wouldn't justify killing a man simply for hitting on them, but if we're talking concern about personal safety then surely women have a need for it. More concern, at least, than a man needs to have about another man who has expressed a sexual interest in him deciding to translate that into a sexual attack.

And yet how often do women react to sexual advances with violence? Rarely, regardless of who they're coming from. Will the crudest of these advances be met with a slap? Occasionally (and no, I do not advocate this). But if violence enters the picture it's far more likely to come from the woman's jealous significant other, provoked not by concern for his own physical welfare or that of the wife/girlfriend, but by a sense of propriety. I say this not to step into some kind of gender war, but to point out that women are hit on all of the time without violence ever resulting, even though they arguably have at least some justification for being defensive. So what's the excuse of the homophobe?

Oh yeah-- he's grossed out. He's offended, both by the thought of the type of sex act he imagines will result from being receptive to the advances of this other man, and by the assumption on the part of the other man that he might be receptive to these advances. At being thought a "fag." Horrible. Horrible enough to justify bashing that man's repeatedly head against the wall and then stabbing him to death.

In Australia this is known as the "homosexual advance defense." It was entrenched in Australian law by a high court decision in 1997 and used successfully as recently as 2009.

But it's okay, because hey-- it's not just a defense against homosexuals. We all can use it!

Imagine a world in which everyone did.

1 comment:

  1. This is ... unimaginable to me. I am proud of everyone who is fighting this brutal interpretation of legal rights.

    ReplyDelete