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Australia Set to Fully Outlaw 'Gay Panic' Defense

Australia Set to Fully Outlaw 'Gay Panic' Defense

Activists praise the move, but say more needs to be done.

The state of South Australia is poised to eliminate the controversial gay defense provision that allows defendants to claim their reaction to a person's sexual orientation can be considered as a mitigating factor at trial. Reuters reports the state's parliament considered a reform bill which eliminated the provision, but the body adjourned until next month without taking a vote. South Australia is the only state in the country that allows the defense under its criminal code.

"It's a fantastic step that it's finally introduced," Matthew Morris, head of South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance (SARAA) which organized a petition to overturn the provision along with Equality Australia, told Reuters. "I'm hoping it will pass quickly, it's long overdue."

The rarely used provision allows for murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter in certain cases. The defense was most recently used in 2016 in the case of Andrew Negre who was murdered by Michael Joseph Lindsay. Negre had allegedly triggered Lindsay by making a joke about paying him for sex, but the court did not accept this explanation and found Lindsay guilty of murder.

The fact that the defense is still on the books in South Australia is surprising to many, since the state is generally regarded as progressive in its outlook and politics.

"As the first state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality, it's embarrassing that we are the last to abolish this outdated legal defense," Morris told SBS News. We welcome this reform and hope that all politicians will support its passage."

"Attacking someone because of who they are offends you should increase your punishment, not reduce it," Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia and cosponsor of the petition said in a statement, explaining that laws excusing "violent and lethal behavior" against queer persons "have no place anywhere in Australia."

The state's Attorney-General Vickie Ann Champan agreed repeal of the law is long overdue.

"I reiterate my previous statements: the gay panic defense is offensive and unacceptable, and the government appreciates what the removal of this from the law means for many in the LGBTQ community," Chapman was quoted in CityMag.

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