*Age Of Consent & Legal Sexual Activity for the State of
Queensland Premier Beattie has verifiable first-hand awareness of the need and justification for reform of the Sodomy Law.
Mr Beattie was Chairman of the Parliamentary Criminal Justice Committee which conducted community consultation and delivered a detailed Report, in October 1990, recommending full equity in the decriminalisation of sex between men. The October 1990 PCJC Report on Homosexual Law Reform was based on the May 1990 Report of the Criminal Justice Commission entitled “Reforms in Laws Relating to Homosexuality – an Information Paper”.
On page 72 of the October 1990 PCJC Report on Homosexual Law Reform Mr Beattie states that “I am in full support of almost all aspects of this Report and certainly the first eight recommendations. Those recommendations are the majority recommendations of the Committee and are put before the Government and the Parliament for Legislative consideration and debate.”
As per page 49 of the October 1990 PCJC Report on Homosexual Law Reform Recommendation 7 is:
“THE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS THAT THE AGE OF CONSENT FOR HOMOSEXUAL ACTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF SEXUAL EQUALITY AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BE THE SAME FOR MALES AS IT IS FOR FEMALES, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THE SEXUAL ACT IS HETEROSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL. (THIS PRINCIPLE IS HIGHLIGHTED IN POINT ONE ON PAGE 60 OF THE COMMISSION’S REPORT.)”
(This recommendation is based directly on the May 1990 Report by the Criminal Justice Commission which is quoted at the top of October 1990 PCJC Report on Homosexual Law Reform page 49.)
Pages 44-49 (see scanned text below) of the October 1990 PCJC Report on Homosexual Law Reform deal specifically with testimony and information which is strongly in support of Recommendation 7:
(Report page 44, pdf file page 47):
9. PSYCHIATRIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
Committee took evidence from Dr Cynthia Gallois, a senior lecturer in the
Psychology Department at the
The evidence put before us from the Queensland Psychologists for Social Justice concludes that:-
“Homosexuals are a large group in society. It is also shown that sexual orientation is formed in childhood and is highly restricted to change thereafter. Homosexuality is not a form of psychological maladjustment, however the present social and legal situation does lead to psychological distress for substantial numbers of individuals, in particular adolescents. Homosexuality does not lead to any negative consequences for society, but social tensions do arise as a result of the law and lead to verbal and physical harassment of homosexuals.
The scientific evidence presented in this submission therefore leads to the conclusion that the present laws with regards to homosexual acts are in opposition to social justice and indeed produce harm to society and individuals. It is this group’s belief that homosexuality be decriminalised and full equality in all regards between homosexuals and heterosexuals be written into the law.” (submission:14)
“The vast majority of research findings into homosexuality conclude that homosexual (as are heterosexual) feelings are a fundamental part of an individual’s psyche, and are not something that is consciously chosen (Bell and Weinrich, 1982). Research indicates that sexual orientation develops at a very early age, perhaps by the age of six (Money 1988) and certainly by early adolescence (Bell, Weinburg & Hammersmith, 1981 etc.).” (submission:4)
(Report page 45, pdf file page 48):
The submission also pointed out that:
“What ever the causes of sexual orientation are, attempts to alter sexual orientation have by and large, not met with success (Money & Wiedeking, 1980). Once established, a homosexual orientation (as with a heterosexual orientation) is highly resistant to change...
In summary then, the weight of evidence seem to suggest that sexual orientation is formed by early childhood, and definitely before puberty and is not amendable to clinical intervention. Homosexuals, as with heterosexuals, do not choose their sexual orientation, it is not a preference. The available data also suggests that it is highly improbable that otherwise heterosexually orientated adolescents can be ‘converted’ to homosexuality. Legislation (criminalisation or decriminalisation) in relation to homosexual acts will not effect the incidence of homosexuality. In fact, a study examining the effects of decriminalisation of homosexual acts in several states in the United States of America found that there was no difference in the amount of private homosexual behaviour as a result of decriminalisation (Geis, Wright, Garrett and Wilson, 1976)”.(submission:5)
Committee received submissions such as that from the Assemblies of God in
“Scores of our Ministers could bear testimony of the many homosexuals they have seen reinstated to a happy, enjoyable, normal heterosexual life. We have a compassionate ministry to those who want to be helped out of their homosexuality. We know the change can take place.” (submission:5)
In oral evidence, Mr Cox said about such claims as those from the Assemblies of God that:
“I would be sceptical about that. I would want to know their methods and how they defined homosexuality, what their follow-up was. It is definitely a unique finding”. (Hansard:68)
These issues were put directly to Psychiatrist Dr Jim Rodney in oral evidence. He concluded as follows:-
‘THE CHAIRMAN: ...You say in your submission-
(Report page 46, pdf file page 49):
‘There is no evidence that homosexuality is a mental illness, nervous condition or aberration of the mind. Sexual orientation is a complex multifactional phenomena which is still not totally understood.’
Do you know at what age sexual orientation takes place?
Dr Rodney: Yes. Again, some of this is scientific research. Getting the cause and effect is difficult because, as I said, making the point, these are areas that are very complex. But there is research evidence to suggest that sexual orientation per se is influenced right from the word go. right from intra-uterine life, early childhood, through the whole of childhood up to adolescence. I think most research areas would consider that by adolescence - around puberty time sexual orientation per se, which is different from sexual roles and sexual identity; maybe I need to clarify some of these areas as well - sexual orientation by puberty time tends to be fairly fixed, tends to be fairly immutable by that stage.
THE CHAIRMAN: Just peeling back the reason for my asking the question, it is basically this: it is relevant to the age of consent. In your view, in terms of sexual orientation, when boys and girls reach the age of 16, for example, what, in your understanding, is the position of sexual orientation.
Dr Rodney: By far the very vast majority would have quite fixed ideas about their sexual orientation. If you look at studies, studies will indicate the vast majority, 90 to 95 per cent. Obviously there is this area of polymorphic sexuality, if I can expand on that. I think we can all understand the word. No-one, I don’t think, is purely heterosexual or purely homosexual. You can toss around the ideas of continuums and so on and so forth, and there are some difficulties in doing that. Perhaps I won’t go into those.
I think the point that I am making is that the vast majority of people, by the age of 16, will be quite fixed in their sexual orientation. They are really a small group because of this polymorphic drive that we all have. They might have some doubts, they may have some confusion. But they are a very small group. I think they tend to often get over-represented - this whole idea of sexual seduction by the same sex and so forth. Much of that is fallacy when you look at the literature. There is very little evidence that people going through these areas, if they are seduced at times, are going to end up changing their sexuality.
THE CHAIRMAN: You say that that simply isn’t true?
Dr Rodney: It is not true. There is very little evidence for it. Sure, people who go through seduction may have that effect. But if you follow some of these groups they will end up going back to the sexual orientation they tend to be, except for a very small group.
THE CHAIRMAN: In other words, those people who have put before us submissions in that area - what you would say in response to that is that if someone did go through
(Report page 47, pdf file page 50):
the stage of seduction, if their orientation was heterosexual, it doesn’t mean they would come out homosexual?
Dr Rodney: Precisely. That’s what I am saying.
THE CHAIRMAN: I am trying to get to the nub of the matter, if I can put it in those terms. One of the groups who put a submission before us said that they had indeed had programs - and I guess they saw them as rehabilitation; l certainly don’t see them in those terms - where people who were homosexuals went through some church program and then went to being heterosexual and lived a life-style accordingly. Is that change a reality?
Dr Rodney: I would have very serious doubts about that. Reading all the literature and having worked in the sexual area for a long time with a lot of people who have doubts and so on and so forth, the evidence I think is that it is very doubtful that people can produce significant changes in sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter what type of therapy they undergo - analytic, behavioural, cognitive, religious, aversive therapies, I know them all. I have been in studies included in them. The outcomes are very, very poor. The results are very poor if one thinks that you are going to take someone and change their sexual orientation. Modern psychiatric thinking is such that very few homosexual people present for any sort of change. They are usually a very small minority group and the psychiatric effect and the therapeutic effect on that sort of level is to help them to adjust to be able to accept and live with that sexual orientation.
THE CHAIRMAN: You say in your submission that homosexually is not a mental disease. Do you know the cause of it?
Dr Rodney: Again, there are a lot of different theories, but there seems to be a lot of research that is going on and there is considerable evidence now for a biological element - considerable evidence. Again, I would be happy to talk about that if you wish to. The evidence comes from twin studies. If you look at twin studies - adoption studies of taking people away from families, bringing them up in another family, obviously to try to sort out this intriguing nature versus nurture dilemma that we often face in psychiatry. Twin studies show quite a higher, what is called, concordance rate of homosexuals in identical twins - monozygotic twins. It has been reproduced in several studies. The suggestion is that there is quite a biological element that predetermines all this. We know that it has been repeated. There are other suggested familial studies. If you look at homosexual siblings, there is a higher incidence in families where there is one homosexual member. Again, that is suggestive of some basic, biological element. I personally see it as a biological void. If you look at any bell-shaped curve you will get different changes - be they hormonal, constitutional or genetic. The way that the distribution appears to be, it seems very likely that that plays a very important role. I am not excluding environmental causes as well. Psychiatrists work with environmental causes all the time. What I am saying is that there does seem to be very good, strong evidence that there is a biological element but then perhaps environmental factors may either condition or change as one goes along.
The CHAIRMAN: So what you are saying, in essence, is that it is not necessarily a
(Report page 48, pdf file page 51):
life-style by choice; it is a determination generally?
Dr Rodney: There is no choice. Homosexuals don’t choose to be homosexuals when they become adults.” (Hansard: 132)
The Committee was of the view that the professional advice put before it concludes the following:-
1. Sexual orientation is most likely determined early and while the age is not determinable it is most likely before puberty.
2. Once sexual orientation is determined it is very difficult if not impossible to change.
3. The law regardless of whether it makes homosexual sex between consenting males in private legal or not has little impact or no impact on the practice of homosexuality in private. Its impact is in relation to whether safe sex is practiced and whether the community is susceptible to particular AIDS education programs.
4. The evidence seems to suggest that homosexual orientation is not a matter over which homosexuals have any control in the same way heterosexuals have no control over their sexual orientation.
Age Of Consent
These conclusions are important to the “age of consent” question.
If sexual orientation of both boys and girls is determined early and most likely before puberty, then the age of consent for males should be the same as for females irrespective of whether the sexual act is heterosexual or homosexual.
(Report page 49, pdf file page 52):
The Criminal Justice Commission’s Information Paper points out that:-
would accord with principles of sexual equality and anti-discrimination that
the age of consent for males and females be the same irrespective of whether
the sexual act is heterosexual or homosexual.
In oral evidence before the Committee Psychologist Dr Gallois was asked:-
“THE CHAIRMAN: We were talking before about sexual orientation taking place at an early age. It is also true that girls mature faster than boys. If we are talking about an age of consent - be it 16, 18 or whatever, but let us deal with 16 -what is your professional opinion? Is the age of consent at that stage - both have obviously determined their sexual orientation, based on what you have said. Therefore, you would argue, presumably, that there would be no difference then in terms of the age of consent?
Dr GaIlois: I think that is what we would argue, and fairly strongly, particularly between boys and girls mainly because the suggestion that we have heard at any rate is that boys mature more slowly physically, which of course they do through childhood, and they reach puberty a little later. We are talking about age 13 or 14 now.
Therefore, they may be emotionally less mature. The evidence coming from the survey data on adolescents and the vast majority of these people are heterosexual adolescents - is that boys start to have sexual activity earlier in their teenage years and are more sexually active than girls and they are no more emotionally involved in their sexual relationships than girls. They are more likely to have more sexual partners than girls at any given age through the teenage years and so forth. In the light of that to have a higher age of consent for boys on the grounds that they are less sexually mature does not reflect their behaviour. Their behaviour is that they have more experience than girls.”
THE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS THAT THE AGE OF CONSENT FOR HOMOSEXUAL ACTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF SEXUAL EQUALITY AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BE THE SAME FOR MALES AS IT IS FOR FEMALES, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THE SEXUAL ACT IS HETEROSEXUAL OR HOMOSEXUAL. (THIS PRINCIPLE IS HIGHLIGHTED IN
POINT ONE ON PAGE 60 OF THE COMMISSION’S REPORT.)