We need to talk about Queensland’s fucked-up anti-gay laws

By Samuel Leighton-Dore

With the bright lights of Brisvegas and the sprawling Gold Coast beaches, Queensland has all the geographical makings of a national hot-spot for the Australian LGBTIQ community. But instead of embracing the pink dollar, our so-called Sunshine State continues to be marred by a series of outdated, discriminatory and outright dangerous laws which put gay people, young and old, at legitimate risk.

So yeah, we really do need to talk about Queensland – because they’re stuck in the bloody Stone Age and it’s super fucked up that nothing’s being done about it.

Let’s start with the Queensland Government’s embarrassing failure to overturn the Gay Panic Law, a legislation which effectively allows for murder charges to be downgraded to manslaughter when citing the provocation of unwanted homosexual advances. Almost a year after the Queensland Government pledged to abolish the law, absolutely no action has been taken – and the public doesn’t seem all that upset about it.

Surprisingly, the man currently spearheading a reform is Catholic Priest Father Paul Kelly, who was left dismayed after a local man was savagely beaten and left for dead.

“It turned out that he had been bashed and left lying there overnight by two men,” he said.

“And in the trial for murder it was raised that the victim, Wayne Ruks, allegedly made a homosexual advance against one of them and they lost control and bashed him. But it shocked me that that was even raised, or that it might even have been some kind of mitigating circumstance.”

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a minute. Imagine if every gay man could cite “unwanted heterosexual advances” as an excuse for murdering a woman. There would quite rightly be public outrage – because the very notion of a non-aggressive romantic or sexual advance being reason enough for murder, is absolutely ridiculous.

But wait – it gets worse.

Despite a uniform age of consent in every other state, the Queensland Government’s hesitance to adjust the age of consent for anal sex, which currently allows for 17-year-olds to be imprisoned for up to 14 years for participating in consensual “sodomy”, not only blatantly infers that LGBTIQ young people are less able to make informed choices regarding their sexual activity – but creates dangerous boundaries for young gay men to access important safe sex information.

The results are both clear and disturbing – with a 2011 report showing that Queensland has consistently recorded the highest rise nationally in new notifications of HIV in young gay males. This is largely because gay men under the age of 18 are being discouraged from disclosing their sexual activity to doctors – with medical professionals required to treat underage anal sex as a criminal matter.

Look, Queenslanders cop a lot of flack for reasons ranging from their State of Union team to their tacky Bacardi Breezer nightlife. But I happen to love Queensland – my boyfriend’s from a small rural town outside of Townsville and I’ve always found the locals to be accepting, hospitable and lovely. But if Queensland is to shake their rough-as-guts image, they’ll need to start by reforming their discriminatory laws to align with our national values in 2016 Australia.

And until then, we all need to be talking about it.

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