New South Wales bill likely to ban “gay panic” defense has unexpected sponsor

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The Legislative Council of New South Wales (NSW), Australia is working towards approving a law that would ban the “gay panic” defense—and its sponsor is a surprising one.

Under the bill, “gay panic” will no longer be a valid legal defense, meaning those who have been charged with murder will not be able to plead diminished responsibility due to becoming enraged after their victim (allegedly) made a gay pass at them. Also included in the bill is a ban on those who commit “honor killings” making the same plea on the grounds that their religious or cultural sensibilities were offended behind tolerance.

It was proposed by the leader of the Christian Democrat party, Reverend Fred Nile, who is one of the most well-known campaigners against LGBT rights in Australia, including marriage equality and adoption rights. For years, he organized groups of Christian to protest against the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, during which he led them to pray for rain to cancel the event.

The bill came about after Nile chaired an inquiry into defenses claiming provocation in NSW. In 2012, Sydney resident Chamjot Singh was able to have his murder charge reduced to that of manslaughter for the killing of his wife, Manpreet Kaur, in 2009. He successfully argued that due to his cultural upbringing as an Indian man, his belief that his wife was cheating on him, when he attacked her—he cut her throat with a box cutter at least eight times after strangling her—he was so enraged that he was not fully in control of himself.

Though it was expected that the NSW lower house would vote on the bill on March 27, it appears to have been delayed. The next meeting of the parliament is scheduled for May 6.

Because the bill has the support of multiple parties, including NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, it is considered likely to pass.

429Magazine

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