Fraser Coast LGBTI+ community hails Fr Kelly a 'hero'
TEN years ago, Catholic priest Paul Kelly never thought he would be hailed a hero by the LGBTIQ community.
But since the violent killing of Wayne Ruks took place in his Maryborough church grounds in 2008, Fr Kelly has fought to remove the "gay panic" defence from Queensland common law.
On Wednesday night, after more than five years of campaigning and 279,000-plus signatures on his online petition, Fr Kelly and his supporters finally won the battle and the law was axed by the State Government.
Fr Kelly was in charge of the Maryborough Catholic parish at the time of the killing and said he would never forget the look on the face of Wayne's mother outside court as she heard the defence team had accused her deceased son of making a homosexual advance on his killers before he was beaten to death.
The priest said after years of fighting for the law change, he hoped the outcome would bring some peace to Wayne's family.
"I do believe it might give some peace and some justice to Wayne's mother and the knowledge it's not likely that it'll happen again," Fr Kelly said.
The Catholic priest said it never occurred to him he may become a hero for the LGBTIQ community.
"You come across something and you think it isn't right, you have to point that out," he said.
"Even though we got a lot of resistance, I thought this is so powerfully wrong, how could this not be changed?"
Member of the Fraser Coast LGBTIQ community Sally Cripps was living in Hervey Bay at the time of the killing.
She said it was "terrifying" for the LGBTIQ community when they heard the man's legal team had used the gay panic defence.
"They beat a man in a church ground and left him to die, and then got a lighter sentence," Ms Cripps said.
"He didn't even touch him and whatever was said, they took it the wrong way and he was murdered for it."
Ms Cripps was one of the many supporters of Fr Kelly's work to remove the defence from Queensland legislation.
"Fr Kelly is just another man who happened to step up and become a hero," she said.
"What I see in his actions is a bridging of humanity, of the right thing to do, of being human first before anything else and standing up for each other - that's humanity."