There was media coverage this week of a Queensland move to repeal the ‘unwanted homosexual advances’ defence for murder, commonly known as the 'gay panic defence'.
What I think is most remarkable about this development is that it was a Catholic priest - Father Paul Kelly - who heroically spearheaded the campaign that has been instrumental in getting the law reform to this stage.
Traditionally, and up to the present time, many Catholic priests have seen it as their duty to stand in the way of of justice for LGBTQI people. Some have even positively encouraged homophobic bullying or acts of violence.
Last year The Age revealed that the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart had buried a 2007 report aimed at protecting LGBTQI students in Catholic schools from homophobic bullying. It was titled Not So Straight and written by then Jesuit priest Father Peter Norden.
The archbishop said that use of the report in schools would 'either blur the clear position of the Church or by the use of terms such as "natural behaviour" imply a suggestion that alternative sexuality should be accepted.' He expressed the long held view that it was important to draw a line between behaviour regarded as normative and what the Church teaches is 'disordered'.
It was, and largely still is, regarded as important for church personnel to actively maintain this distinction, though The Age report does indicate that Archbishop Hart has softened his stance since 2007.
I have a clear personal recollection from the mid 80s of a retired Jesuit preparatory school principal boasting of 'sending out' his students to bully peers who were homosexual. The context was the AIDS crisis which, in his commonly held view at the time, had made it more urgent that homosexuals remain marginalised.
This priest had obviously become more candid and eccentric as he aged, but that only makes his boast more credible. He'd made it clear that he'd considered it his duty to promote homophobic bullying. Other priests would be more discrete or possibly repentant.
I think that this kind of blatant church denial of human rights for LGBTQI people has now given way to a culture of widespread and insidious self-censorship, which I was part of until a year ago.
As editor of Eureka Street, I would refer upwards editorial content that promoted a view of the acceptance of homosexuality as normative. A California based Jesuit had written an excellent and potentially groundbreaking article offering a theological basis for affirming transgender identity (eventually published elsewhere). I weakened the article in an initial edit, then received suggestions for further softening after the upward referral. Subsequently it was my self-censoring decision not to proceed with publication.
That's why I'm pleased to see that my successors appear less bound by self-censorship, as is evident with the publication of today's lead. Titled Queering the airwaves for TV diversity, it is an affirmation of the currently screening LGBTQI themed ABC comedy drama Please Like Me (pictured). Today's article strikes a much overdue Catholic Church initiated blow against homophobic bullying and violence.