Campaign for Age Of Consent awareness & removal of The Sodomy Law in Queensland

*Age Of Consent & Legal Sexual Activity for the State of Queensland, Australia - A campaign to remove our Sodomy Law (which was enacted in 1990).

what the law easy to read pamphlet...a brief story of the campaign so far...the need for community action...homosexual law reform history in Qld...Government legislation referencesCorrespondence Summary List...   RETURN to opening page

10th July 2003 Email to Queensland Pride magazine commenting on the opening article of their edition #178, which I believe is easily interpreted as inferring that there are no sodomy laws in Queensland. The article was reporting on a 20th June 2003 forum presented by the new Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth. The article mentions Susan’s support for “an equal age of consent”, but quotes the Commissioner directly as she suggests that “we don’t have sodomy laws in Queensland”. Sodomy laws across the USA (which were struck down on 26th June 2003) used to mean a variety of things in different states – from banning anal sex only, to banning both anal & oral sex, or banning all sex between men. I believe that the correct interpretation of our state’s particular sodomy law needs to be made very clear to all those who read this Queensland Pride article.



To:       Queensland Pride magazine


From:   John Frame


82 Main Avenue, Wavell Heights 4012

            Ph 3350 1562 / 0409 501 561


Date:    10th July 2003


Re:       letter re on page 3 of Queensland Pride edition 178 (4th July 2003)


Topic:  We do indeed have a “Sodomy Law” in Queensland.

Written by John Frame 10th July 2003

82 Main Avenue, Wavell Heights 4012 Ph 3350 1562 / 0409 501 561


We do indeed have a “Sodomy Law” in Queensland.


The last edition of QP opened on page 3 with an article covering the 20th June forum held by Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth. The article states that “Booth identified an equal age of consent, adoption reform, removal of the gay panic defence and superannuation reform as key legal battles still to be won at a state level”


However, in the paragraph following this Susan is quoted as saying “the removal of sodomy laws was not because of a kind-hearted state government. We don’t have sodomy laws in Queensland because of the efforts of the Association for Gay Law Reform (QAGLR) in the late 1980’s.”


The actual “age of consent” in Queensland is already equal, with a minimum age of 16, but a separate law says that one sexual activity, anal intercourse, is not legal until 18. 


“Sodomy laws” are those laws which prohibit particular private consenting sexual activities, or which define a higher minimum age for those activities than is otherwise declared as being the “age of consent”. Such discriminatory laws were struck down across the USA in a landmark Supreme Court ruling on June 26th.


Unfortunately we do indeed have an easily identifiable and very real sodomy law in Queensland. Under Sections 208 and 209 of the Criminal Code (1899, as amended in 1997) there is a penalty of 14 years gaol for any person engaging, or attempting to engage, in “unlawful sodomy” with any person “under 18 years”.


Sections 208 and 209 were those parts of our law that used to make all sex between men illegal. They were amended in November 1990 when the Goss Government “decriminalised” homosexuality, but also bowed to pressure from their own conservative MP’s, and defined in those sections the crime of “unlawful anal intercourse” involving any person “not an adult” under criminal law (which was either 17 or 18 depending on who you ask).


In 1997 the National/Liberal Coalition decided to change the offence from “unlawful anal intercourse” to “unlawful sodomy”. They also doubled the penalties and fixed a clear minimum age of 18. These amendments were not even debated by the Labor Opposition.


I have spoken today with Commissioner Susan Booth, and I’m satisfied that she knows our current laws. Susan told me she had considered a “sodomy law” to be the total banning of homosexual sex – as was the case before the November 1990 reform.


So I know the misunderstanding here is a case of semantics – the meaning of words. Yet to me a mention of support for an equal age of consent – even if that’s the first item mentioned - doesn’t make up for the statement that follows, which includes the specific phrase “we don’t have sodomy laws”. It’s not our fault that you can’t mention age of consent in Queensland without also going into detail regarding the sodomy law, but it’s still necessary.


The dangerous thing is that at least 80% of Queensland does not understand how our sodomy law applies. It is important to know that even the Attorney General Rod Welford confirms the definition of “sodomy” as “penetration of the anus by a penis” – under Queensland Law.  It is not illegal for 16 and 17 year olds, of any sexuality, to consent to any other sexual activity.


For many uninformed or unimaginative people there is no difference in meaning between the two terms “anal intercourse” and “gay sex” (for males). The ongoing misinformation regarding our laws means that most service providers for youth definitely err on the safe side and don’t even discuss same sex issues or support for gay and bisexual men aged under 18. This is a tragedy for those youth, because they are surrounded by an aura of potential illegality (whether they are sexually active or not) – and that adversely affects their self-esteem, as much as their health and well-being.