~~Caxton Legal Centre and the LGBTI Legal Service have welcomed the decision of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Menzies and Ors v Owen, which confirms the rights of people with diverse sexualities to live free from homophobic vilification.
After more than 8 years of litigation including successful outcomes in the High Court of Australia, complainants Ricky Menzies and Rhonda Bruce have succeeded in establishing that various homophobic publications made by former Gympie Councillor, Ron Owen, breached Queensland’s vilification laws. In the publications which included a report tabled in Council, a newsletter distributed to constituents and a letter published on a website, Mr Owen promulgated homophobic views including for example:
that you should not allow sodomites anywhere near schools, scouts, churches or government, or railways in fact I cannot think of anywhere on this planet I could recommend them to
“People look to their elected representatives for leadership and it is especially disappointing that a local government councillor would promote hatred and contempt for homosexual people in his electorate” said Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service.
“We are pleased to see this behaviour roundly condemned and continue to look towards a society where all people are treated with equal respect and are equally safe” she said.
The outcome of this case demonstrates the importance of legislative protections against the inciting of serious contempt and hatred of vulnerable people in our community. Witnessing the enforcement of vilification laws under the Anti-discrimination Act gives confidence to people with diverse sexualities. “Many Queenslanders will now feel safer and more confident to take action when confronted with such hostile and homophobic situations” Ms Alexander said.
Mr Owen, a proprietor of Owen Guns, has been ordered to provide private apologies and retractions to the complainants.
Caxton Legal Centre Director, Scott McDougall, commended the courage and stamina of his clients throughout extended legal proceedings drawn out by several appeals made by Mr Owen.
“It was quite telling that at the time of making the complaint in 2005, there were no gay men in Gympie prepared to come forward. Hopefully that will have changed as a result of this decision”.