Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Gay Aussie couples should reconsider surrogacy in Texas

Australians have ventured far and wide across the US to undertake surrogacy, not remaining content in California- going from Oregon in the west to Minnesota int he mid west,  Massachusetts in the north-east, and Tennessee and Florida in the south- and apparently most places in between.

One of the places that Aussies have been more interested in in recent times has been Texas. It's cheaper for surrogacy and seems to be well run. It has until now provided relative certainty. Texan attorneys have told me that if you are gay and married, then following the US Supreme Court case that legalised gay marriage across the US in 2015, Texas welcomed you with open arms.

I am now of the view that gay Aussies should pause before they consider going to Texas. This is aside from the obvious issue that in several parts of Australia it is a criminal offence to undertake commercial surrogacy overseas.

Why I've formed this view is because of a challenge currently under way in the  Supreme Court of Texas. That court a week ago has allowed a case to progress where there is a challenge to the rights of gay and lesbian married Texans. The challenge isn't to their being married, but whether they should have the same rights as heterosexual married couples. Essentially it is argued that gay and lesbian married couples shouldn't have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

The US National LGBT Bar Association has raised concerns about the possible impact of the Texan case.

The fact that the case is being openly considered speaks volumes as to the current climate in Texas and means that gay married couples, who might rely upon Texas surrogacy law to become parents there, have to reconsider whether that is a good choice. if the Texas Supreme Court upholds the challenge, then it is expected that there will be a series of court cases about the issue- while the law in Texas on the point remains uncertain. In the meantime, gay married couples, in my view should reconsider going to Texas for surrogacy. To do otherwise might be to invite a lot of trouble.

Those from the 7 countries should reconsider surrogacy in the US

People living in Australia who have citizenship of one of the list of 7 countries banned by President Trump should reconsider undertaking surrogacy in the US. While Malcolm Turnbull has said that the US will exempt dual citizen Australians from the ban, news from this morning was that a dual national Iranian/Australian student had been denied a visa to enter the US as part of a school trip. Presumably all her school mates will be able to go, but she won't.

The seven countries are:

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

Given  that surrogacy is a journey that typically takes 12-18 months on a good journey, but might take up to 4 years if things don't go quite as smoothly, not being able to travel to the country where you are undertaking surrogacy is a disaster in the making if you are an intended parent.

Those who come from those countries should think very carefully before considering surrogacy in the US. There could be few things worse than having your child born there and not being able to be with them.

Let's hope some clear, transparent and certain rules are put back in place for those seeking to undergo surrogacy in the US.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Parents under surrogacy have to be genetic parents : Europe's highest court

In a decision handed down on 24 January, the European Court of Human Rights has rejected arguments by Italian intended parents that they were the parents of a child born through a surrogacy arrangement in Russia- because neither of them were genetically the parents.

In the case, called Paradiso and Campanelli v Italy, the intended parents had, in breach of Italian law, gone to Russia and undertaken surrogacy there. There was argument in the case about whether the Russian birth certificate was valid (as it appears Russian law is unclear when there is no genetic relationship between the intended parents and the child), which said that the intended parents were the parents of the child. The child was conceived from both donor egg and donor sperm. The donors were anonymous- meaning that the child's genetic origins were unknown.

Within a few months of the intended parents returning to Italy with the child, Italian authorities acted to place the child into adoption. The intended parents fought this unsuccessfully, all the way to the highest court in Europe, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.

The court determined by 11 judges to 6 that the actions of Italy did not breach Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 provides that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life. The prime question determined on the appeal was whether there was a family.

The court concluded that there was not a family as a matter of law because neither of the intended parents was related to the child. If one of them had been related, then it would have been a different outcome.

It was noted that due to an absence of a genetic relationship, their relationship was not recognised as parent and child under Italian law.

The intended parents argued that they were parents under Russian law, and that therefore the parent/child or family relationship should be recognised. The court noted that the intended parents had acted illegally under Italian law in bringing a foreign child who had no biological ties with either of them, in breach of the rules laid down as to international adoption, and that they had entered into an agreement for the husband's sperm to be used to fertilise eggs from another woman, in breach of Italian law.

The court then considered whether there had been a de facto family in existence, but because of the short period between when the child came into their care and when the child was removed by Italian authorities, there was not enough time to establish that de facto care.

The court found that the conduct of Italian authorities impugned their private life, as they had a genuine intention to become parents, initially via IVF, then by applying for and obtaining formal approval to adopt, and lastly by turning to egg donation and the assistance of a surrogate.

The court found that the Italian authorities actions were justified in the absence of any genetic ties and the breach of Italian law concerning international adoption and on medically assisted reproduction. The measures taken by authorities were intended to ensure the immediate and permanent rupture of any contact between the intended parents and the child, and the child's placement in a home and also under guardianship.

The court stated:

"By prohibiting surrogacy arrangements, Italy has taken the view that it is pursuing the public interest of protecting the women and children potentially affected by practices which it regards as highly problematic from an ethical point of view. This policy is considered very important...where, as here, commercial surrogacy arrangements are involved.  That underlying public interest is also of relevance in respect of measures taken by a State to discourage its nationals from having recourse abroad to such practices which are forbidden on its own territory."

Parallels with the International Convention

Australia, like Italy is a party to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its Article 16 is very similar to Article 8 of the European Convention, " No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence..."

We shall wait and see what impact, if any, this case might have as to any views regarding the International Convention and undertaking surrogacy overseas in breach of Australian law.

Californian court dismisses surrogate's appeal in triplet case and enforces surrogacy contract

The California Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a surrogate who sought that she have custody of triplets. Her appeal sought to challenge the constitutional validity of laws governing surrogacy in California.

The Court of Appeal noted:

  1. the surrogate was legally represented before she signed the agreement.
  2. she was aware when signing of court cases that had the effect that when born the children would be children of the intended father.
  3. her then lawyer was of the view that the surrogate signed the agreement with a clear and informed understanding of the agreement.
  4. in the agreement, the surrogate agreed to freely and readily establish the parental relationship between the intended father and any child born out of the agreement.
When the father sought parentage of the triplets, the surrogate counterclaimed, seeking that the children were hers, that one child live with her (the one she said that the father sought to have aborted), that there be a trial about where the other children were to live and claiming that the father was 50, a postal worker who was deaf, caring for his elderly parents and incapable of caring for the children, and that he submit to DNA testing to determine if he were the genetic father of the children.

The court held that because the father complied with the requirements under California law to establish parenthood, the appeal was dismissed. The court found that under Californian law that the surrogacy agreement was enforceable, and should be enforced.

How the Federal and WA governments shafted would be dads- because they're not good enough, apparently

Why is it the case that Western Australia is allowed to discriminate against gay men and singles when they want to be parents, but nowhere else is? All the while we hear from politicians about how they deplore Australians going to developing countries for surrogacy and exploiting poor women there- but the laws as drafted force gay and single Western Australian men who want to be singles to either move interstate or go offshore.

How does WA law discriminate?

Quite simply, WA has a bizarre system:

  • if you want to be a foster care, you can be single or gay (sounds good so far)
  • if you want to adopt, you can be single or gay (again sounds OK)
  • if you want to have a child through surrogacy, you can be a heterosexual couple, or a lesbian couple, or a single woman, but cannot be a single man or a gay male couple. The Surrogacy Act makes this discrimination plain.

The Commonwealth got called out

In October 2015, the Commonwealth Government got called out when it fronted up at the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva from over 100 other countries. Some of the issues, not surprisingly, were about Nauru and Manus Island. But they also got a shellacking over Australian laws concerning LGBTI people. The result- the Commonwealth promised to end the exemptions under the Sex Discrimination Act that allowed the States to discriminate against LGBTI people. The Commonwealth told the UN that these exemptions would go by the end of July 2016.

But Western Australia is alone still allowed to discriminate...

And indeed they did. On 1 August 2016 we woke up to find that the exemptions had ended- except in Western Australia:

  • Discrimination in Queensland law to prevent LGBTI Queenslanders accessing assisted reproductive treatment from fertility doctors: OVERRIDDEN. 

  • Discrimination in South Australian law to prevent single and LGBTI South Australians accessing assisted reproductive treatment from fertility doctors: OVERRIDDEN. 

  • Discrimination in Western Australian law to prevent single men and gay male couples from accessing surrogacy: IN PLACE UNTIL 1 AUGUST 2017. Nowhere else- just WA, as the regulations make plain.

Why is it OK to discriminate against gay and single men in WA, but it's not OK anywhere else? What discussions have happened between the WA and Commonwealth governments to allow this? Why shouldn't this regulation be scrapped immediately to bring WA into line with the rest of the country?

South Australia to remove LGBTI discrimination on LGBTI rights- fingers crossed

South Australia has a Bill before its Parliament to remove discrimination in its laws against LGBTI couples and single people, which will for the first time enable singles and LGBTI people access to surrogacy in that State- if passed. It will for the first time remove discrimination in the provision of assisted reproductive treatment in that State.

I want to make it plain that the changes have not yet passed. The current discrimination under South Australian law remains as to reproductive rights for LGBTI couples and singles.

History of how we got here

South Australia made plain that when it came to reproductive rights and surrogacy, those who were not in heterosexual relationships were unable to obtain assistance, or if they could do so, they could only do so with difficulty.

South Australia did this in two ways:

  • on penalty of losing their licence and copping a huge fine, fertility doctors had to only provide fertility treatment to women who were medically infertile. The standard definition of that has been unprotected sexual intercourse for a year that does not result in a pregnancy. South Australia attempted to exclude unmarried women, but following a Mrs Pearce (she was divorced) taking the State Government and one of the IVF clinics to court, that attempt failed. The Full Court of South Australia ruled that the Federal Sex Discrimination Act overruled the South Australian law, so Mrs Pearce could have treatment. The Federal Government then allowed discrimination to remain under exemptions to the Sex Discrimination Act until 1 August 2016, when the jig was up. Until that happened, fertility doctors in SA could not assist lesbian couples (when there wasn't that traditional medical infertility) or any single men or gay couples. Because SA doctors were the ones providing IVF in the NT, the discriminatory rules were exported there too.
  • The only people who could access surrogacy in SA were (and I should say still are) either heterosexual couples who were either married or living in a domestic partnership- the latter being for a minimum of 3 years. Singles and LGBTI couples (if the latter were not deemed to be heterosexual) cannot access surrogacy in SA.
In 2014 moves were under way to reform SA's surrogacy laws. My view was that the most urgent change was to remove discrimination in those laws. That change did not happen. One Labor Minister, Ian Hunter, who is openly gay, voted against those laws on that basis.

And then the UN stepped in...

In late 2015, the Australian Government told the Human Rights Committee of the UN in Geneva that it would remove the exemptions for discrimination against LGBTI people under State laws by 1 August 2016- and (with the exception of WA) did so. In early August 2016, the SA health authorities wrote to the IVF clinics in that State advising of the changes. IVF clinics were then faced with a dilemma:

  • did they comply with their licences- and refuse treatment- and therefore possibly act unlawfully under the Sex Discrimination Act (which would open them up ot the possibility of damages and untold bad publicity)?; or
  • did theycomply with the Sex Discrimination Act- and risk losing their livelihoods and a huge fine?
My understanding is that IVF clinics have, properly, done the former. But this still did not solve the issue about surrogacy.

Then Jay Weatherill stepped in. He declared that SA had to find out what its discriminatory laws were- and get rid of them. SA was lagging behind, he said. He was right. Other States had gone through this exercise - Queensland for example in 2002-3- as had the Commonwealth under Kevin 

And thus the SALRI review was set up

The South Australian Law Reform Institute (with the wonderful acronym SALRI) then reviewed the laws- and recommended wholesale changes to end discrimination. I made both written and oral submissions about reproductive rights in SA, seeking to end the discrimination.

The result?

There is now the Relationships Register Bill to reform the law in SA. When it comes to assisted reproductive treatment, discrimination will go, because it will be a licence condition
prohibiting the IVF doctor from refusing to provide assisted reproductive treatment to another on the basis only of the other's sexual orientation or gender identity, marital status, or religious beliefs. The old definition of infertility will also go: "if it appears to be unlikely that, in the person's circumstances, the person will become pregnant other than by an assisted reproductive treatment".

The law that governs surrogacy in South Australia is the Family Relationships Act. The Bill makes plain that those eligible for surrogacy in SA are singles, married couples or those in registered relationships, or those in a marriage-like relationship who have lived together for at least 3 years. Those who are married or in registered relationships do not have a time frame of eligibility save that they have become married or their relationship has been registered- they could be eligible that day, even if they have not previously lived together.

What is not known

It's not known whether the Bill will be passed, and if passed when it will take effect. In the meantime those seeking to have children via ART or surrogacy in SA (and their doctors) have to wait and see. Hopefully MP's will support this sensible scrapping of discriminatory laws that are in breach of our international obligations, and brings SA into line with most other States in this area.

Well that seemed to go well...

On Wednesday I gave evidence to the Queensland Parliamentary committee examining a Bill that proposed to get rid of gay panic defence.

I supported the approach of the Queensland Law Society, which was to support the change, subject to tightening up a couple of definitions as to exceptional character and minor touching.

In my view the drafting change will make sure that victims of domestic violence were protected, and not accidentally excluded from being able to rely on the defence of provocation to murder when their partner sought to have sex with them without their consent.

Let's hope the Committee is in favour of the Bill, and it can be quickly passed, so that gay panic defence will be something that never raises its ugly head in Queensland again.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Wish me luck, as tomorrow's the big day...

Following my submission to Queensland Parliament about the Bill to abolish gay panic defence in Queensland, I was asked to give evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry. I do so tomorrow.

The other people who are also witnesses are Phil Browne, on behalf of the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group, Tom Clark on behalf of the LGBTI Legal Service, former Queensland Law Society President and prominent criminal lawyer Bill Potts and another solicitor on behalf of the Queensland Law Society, and Wendy Francis and another form the Australian Christian Lobby.

It should be no surprise, but all the witnesses giving eivdence are broadly in support of the change, with the exception of those from the Australian Christian Lobby who are opposed.

I was pleasantly surprised about the support I have received for going and giving evidence, including some powerful words from prominent GP Dr Wendell Rosevear OAM. 

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

My submission supporting the abolition of gay panic defence in Queensland

I have just received news that I can now publish my submission to the Queensland Parliament committee where I supported the abolition of gay panic defence in Queensland.

Here is my submission:

4 January 2017

The Research Director
Legal Affairs Community Safety Committee
Parliament House

By email: lacsc@parliament.qld.gov.au

Dear Sir/Madam

Submission as to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2016

1.         Summary

I write to support clause 10 of the bill which is to amend Section 304 of the Criminal Code, the effect of which amendment is to abolish gay panic defence.

2.         Who am I?

I am a solicitor in a private practice. I was admitted in 1987 and practise primarily in family law. I have for almost 20 years spoken out and lobbied to ensure that there is equality in the law for LGBTI people. In 2015 I was awarded LGBTI Q Activist of the Year. In 2016 my firm was awarded the Small Legal Practice Initiative Award by the Queensland Law Society in its Equity and Diversity Awards, for my firm’s advocacy for women and LGBTI people in particular.

For about 15 years I wrote a legal column for gay magazines in Queensland.

I was a key organiser of the foundation of the Brisbane LGBTI Legal Service Inc. In 2015 that service awarded me the Rainbow Key Award. In 2016 I was one of two presenters celebrating the 6th anniversary of that service held in the Banco Court of the Supreme Court of Queensland. The other presenter was the Honourable Michael Kirby.

I have made representations to Attorneys-General Dick, Lucas and D’Ath seeking the abolition of gay panic defence in Queensland.

3.         Bipartisan support

Although this Bill has been put before the house by the attorney, I note that in the past the then Opposition Leader Mr Springborg stated publicly that the Opposition would support the abolition of gay panic defence in Queensland. I would hope that that bipartisan support remains. The health and safety of LGBTI people in Queensland should not be the subject of a political score card.

4.         Why gay panic defence should be abolished

Then Human Rights Commissioner, (and now Federal Liberal MP) Tim Wilson in his national consultation report Resilient Individuals:Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Rights called on the two States that allowed gay panic defence to remain, namely Queensland and South Australia, to abolish it. Abolition by Queensland would bring Queensland into line with most other states.

Mr Wilson in his report asked participants in a survey what they would describe an inclusive Australia to look like. Three responses to me stand out:

·         “Equality at all levels, no special rules for minorities but neither should there be any persecutions for people’s preferences whatever they may be”
·         “A place where it is simply unremarkable to be LBGTI”
·         “A country where I can walk down the street and hold the hand of the woman I love without prejudice …..”

The commission states in its report, at page 15:

            “Research consistently identified higher than average rates of violence, harassment and bullying towards LGBTI people in Australia. It is well established that violence, harassment and bullying affect the well-being and equality of life of people who experience it”.

A 2012 report quoted at page 15 in the commission report revealed 25.5% of the survey respondents reported an experience of homophobic abuse or harassment in the previous 12 months. In addition, a further 8.7% reported experiencing threats of or actual physical violence. Approximately 40% of trans men and women reported experiencing some form of verbal abuse, and almost a quarter reported some form of harassment.  Additionally 65% of participants in the 2014 first annual national trans mental health study reported experiencing discriminationor harassment. It was difficult for the commission to comment on rates of violence, harassment and bullying for intersex people due to the absence of available data.

In their ground breaking research Speaking out, stopping homophobic and transphobic abuse in Queensland (2010) Dr Alan Berman and Shirleene Robinson paint a disturbing picture of abuse towards LGBTI people in Queensland. The most common form of abuse was, not surprisingly, verbal abuse which affected 73% of 796 respondents in their life time. Five hundred and ten respondents or 47% experienced harassment including spitting and offensive gestures. Four hundred and fifty two respondents or 41% experienced threats of physical violence in a life time. Two hundred and fifty four respondents or 23% were subjected to physical attack or assault without a weapon (including being punched, kicked or beaten). The authors note at pages 36 to 37 that:

            “The figures describing the levels of physical attacks or assaults on the LBGTIQ population of Queensland are a striking deviation from broader population statistics from the year 2000, which declared that 7.6% of a single “mainstream” Queenslanders had been the victim of assault. This means that members of the LGBTIQ population approximately three times more likely than “mainstream” Queenslanders to experience physical violence. Figures from respondents who indicated they had experienced physical assault with a weapon (9% of survey respondents) are also included, the members of the Queensland LBGTIQ population are more than four times more likely to experience physical assault than all Queenslanders …………  In some instances, perpetrators unleash physical violence after reading cues which they perceive to be single “homosexual” or “unmanly”. In one such instance, a male respondent, who was wearing drag after returning from a fancy dress party, described being “punched and kicked and told that I needed to know what it was to be a real man”. Another male, leaving his work premises in Brisbane was walking home when “three young drunk men who had been on Caxton Street drinking after a football match approach. One hit me in the stomach, the other slapped my backside, tousled my hair, waved me goodbye as I ran. Called me something akin to “gay” as they ran and another male was hit in the face with a metal pole and suffered a broken nose and nerve damage”.

Another respondent described how he was “attacked from behind, spun around, elbowed in the face”. Another described how he was:

                 “beaten to a pulp [with his] face smashed in, unconscious, teeth missing, jaw broken in five places, five metal plates and screws to hold the jaw together, jaw wired shut for 4 months, infections in the face, reconstructive surgery needed and braces needed for a further 4 years to realign teeth.”

Put simply, if Parliament enacts this proposed change, which I consider to be well drafted, and which does not victimise those subjected to domestic violence, it will give a powerful message to the community that these types of assaults are unwelcome, unapproved and should not be tolerated.

My husband and I (and I say husband as we married in the United States in 2015 although the marriage is not recognised in Australia) live in Fortitude Valley. The Valley of course and New Farm are known for gay cultures.  One might think we were safe there. Alas this is not true. Almost every other day for the “sin” of holding hands or being perceived to be different, we are given the death stare, or look of disdain, or have yelled at us abusive homophobic terms. We have done nothing by our conduct to deserve such abuse.

On 30 December 2016 we happened to be sitting on a tram on the Gold Coast. This was in the middle of the day. We weren’t holding hands. We weren’t being affectionate. We just sat there. A young man got on the tram and at which point he saw us, formed the view that we were gay, directed abuse towards us all the while the subject of CCTV. Our reaction was to avoid eye contact and act protectively. We should not have to live in fear in going about our normal lawful activities simply because we are perceived as being different. I was at that time afraid that I and my husband were going to be assaulted. I am no shrinking violet but that was scary.

I urge the committee to support this provision and for the House to pass the amendment.

I am happy for this submission to be published, and prepared to give evidence to the committee if that assists. The opinions set out in my submissions are my own.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Page
Harrington Family Lawyers

Sunday, 8 January 2017

I'm sorry, Shan Ju Lin, I don't want to be treated like a patient

About 40 or so years ago, the routine treatment for gays in the army in Australia, besides dishonourable discharge, was to ensure that they received psychiatric treatment, which included being held in custody, then electric shock treatment, so that their brains would be zapped, and they would no longer have the impulse of being attracted to other men. This was the era when sex between men was illegal and could be career ending. Another era- and one that we don't want to bring back.

These days we are more enlightened. Back when Paul Keating was in power, after Australia got a drubbing at the United Nations because Tasmania still had the offence on the books of sodomy between men, the Commonwealth Parliament passed laws to make it a human right that those having sex in private were entitled to just that= privacy and not to be prosecuted.

Despite this history, in wades then One Nation candidate Shan Ju Lin who said on Facebook that "gays should be treated as patients". I am glad that One Nation dumped her.

I have asthma and have had it all my life. I am happy to be treated in hospital for my asthma and other ailments, but not for my sexual orientation.  I don't want either me or anyone like me to be treated like a patient- based on our sexuality,  dragged back 40 years, deemed mentally unwell, prevented from undertaking our jobs, demonised, being detained in a psych ward, and then having my brain zapped. Such a concept is abhorrent.

As then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told the UN in Geneva six years ago: "Gay rights are human rights."

Or to put it the way Thomas Jefferson put it over 200 years ago: "All men are created equal." Anything less than that is not good enough.

13 January last day submssions to Senate committee about marriage bill

13 January is the last day to make submissions to a Senate Committee about the Government's exposure draft Bill to amend the Marriage Act. This is the draft, if ever there is to be the plebiscite, that the Government is saying it wants to put forward.

The Committee is clear- submissions are ONLY to be about the terms of reference, not about whether allowing equal marriage laws or about the plebiscite is a good or bad thing.

Please read the terms of reference carefully before making your submission. The committee has resolved that it will only accept submissions strictly addressing its terms of reference, with a particular focus on the following areas:
  • the proposed exemptions in the Exposure Draft for ministers of religion, marriage celebrants and religious bodies and organisations to refuse to conduct or solemnise marriages, and the extent to which those exemptions prevent encroachment upon religious freedoms; 
  • the nature and effect of the proposed amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984;
  • whether there should be any consequential amendments to this bill, or any other Act, and, if so, the nature and effect of those consequential amendments.
Substantive submissions that explore the technical aspects of the terms of reference will be published, however the committee does not have the resources or time to consider short statements expressing support either for or against same-sex marriage.  As such, these statements will be treated as correspondence and not published.

The committee has also resolved that it will not publish form or campaign letters, or petitions, received to the inquiry.


My comments about the Bill

In my view it is fair enough that Ministers of Religion can have exemption to marry those who don't fit their religious views. While I am of the view that Ministers of religion should not discriminate, our constitutional theory and society is based on a balancing of interests, and that includes the freedom of religion.

However, this exemption under the Bill in my view is not necessary in any event. This is because s.47 of the Marriage Act  allows a Minister of religion to refuse to solemnise any marriage.

However, there should not be the ability of civil celebrants to refuse to solemnise marriage ceremonies because of their religious views. Quite simply, they hold those positions on the part of the State. If the State is of the view that there should not be discrimination, they they should not discriminate.

The last exemption allows religious organisations or bodies to discriminate in the provision of facilities, goods and services. This exemption is not needed. Religious bodies can already discriminate in the provision of goods and services under the Sex Discrimination Act. The provision of facilities is in essence the provision of a service, i.e., the use of the facilities, so it seems that this provision is not needed.

Submissions can be made here:

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill
Department of the Senate
PO Box 6100
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 3228
Fax: 02 6277 5829

Qld: submissions close 16 Jan to get rid of gay panic defence

Submissions close on 16 January to a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry to get rid of gay panic defence in Queensland. In 2015, Queensland , along with South Australia, was urged by then Human Rights Commissioner (and now Federal Liberal MP) Tim Wilson, to get rid of gay panic defence.

How the defence works in Queensland is to murder. If an accused claims, successfully, that they killed the person who made unwanted sexual advances to them, then instead of being convicted of murder, the conviction is downgraded to manslaughter.

As part of its election commitment, the Palaszczuk government has introduced legislation to rid Queensland of gay panic defence. The Bill is called the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2016. In my view the Bill properly gets rid of gay panic defence for murder, without prejudicing those who have killed their partners in a domestically violent relationship. It is a very sensible amendment.

The Bill has now made its way to Parliament's Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee, which is due to report back to the Parliament in February. Anyone can make a submission.

Some recent events have highlighted the need for Queensland to say, loud and clear, that it is opposed to violence against LGBTI people. Last week, a New Zealand man fell 8 metres on to train tracks in Gladstone. It remains unclear about how it happened. Police have to do their job. His husband reported that after his husband rejected the advances of a married man, the married man threw the victim off the bridge.

Over Christmas, my husband and I stayed a few days on the Gold Coast. Like thousands of others, we caught the Gold Coast's tram, the G. One day when we were riding the G, a young man came on to the G. He saw us sitting there and decided that he was going to target us: because he viewed us as gay. He clearly was in the mood for a fight. Luckily it did not happen, but it was scary.

It is a daily event that even in what are seen as the gay friendly parts of Brisbane, my husband and I receive death stares- for holding hands in public. Too often, we get yelled at in abusive and homophobic terms for just doing that, and sometimes just being who we are- without even holding hands.

Some years ago, Professor Alan Berman and Shirleene Robinson wrote about the horrendous levels of homophobic and transphobic violence in Queensland. The attitude that causes such violence remains, at least with some. A positive outcome from the Committee would be a help to combat that violence.

I have to date lobbied Attorney-Generals Cameron Dick, Paul Lucas and Yvette D'Ath to try and get rid of gay panic defence. I didn't try with Jared Bleijie, as he made it plain on coming into office that he was going to do nothing about it. To their credit, the Opposition under then Leader Lawrence Springborg said that they would support the abolition of gay panic defence. Let's hope that is the case.

The guide to making a submission is here.

Where to send the submission is here. 

Here is where to send the submission.