Friday, 26 September 2008

Qld: man fined for vilifying lesbians

It is not often that the beginning of a judgment contains a profound statement, but in the recent Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal case of Menzies v Owen, the beginning starts thus:

Ron Owen is entitled to be a homophobe and he is entitled to publicly express
his homophobic views. That much is required in a society that values freedom of
thought and expression. However, there are limits.

The Tribunal then dealt with the anti-vilification provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act. As well as being a significant gundealer, Ron Owen was also a local councillor in Gympie. He:
  • had a bumper sticker that read: "GAY RIGHTS? UNDER GOD’S LAW THE ONLY ‘RIGHTS GAYS HAVE IS THE RIGHT TO DIE LEV.20:13” [And here is what Leviticus 20:13 says in the King James version: "20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
  • at a council meeting said: “That’s because I probably don’t class the gays as being human”.
  • provided a report to council which said “Sodomite’s (sic) cannot reproduce, their only means of recruitment to their way of life is by preying on the children of normal human beings ...”.
  • said in a channel 7 interview: “I think it is a very perverse lifestyle. ... Can our health services cope with the sodomite’s epidemic? ... As you have prisoners who break the law lose certain rights and I do believe homosexuals lose rights. ... I think that they know they are going to die shortly I mean AIDS is pretty prevalent.”
  • said on a webpage: “No Human Rights For Non-Humans” which included a number of statements vilifying homosexuals, including “Any person who commits acts that no ignorant animal would commit declares war on his community, and therefore may be destroyed by any or all of that community ...” "There can be no genetic reason why any human is born into the world with that perversion implanted in them, if there was any evidence, common-sense would prove it was false. If it was the case, then as people of the same sex cannot reproduce themselves the genetic history would have died out many thousands of years ago.That is probably one of the good reasons why the death sentence is proscribed for the perpetrators, and any who condone them, in the Old and New Testament of the Bible. In those early days they were much smarter than the apathetic near brain dead community of today, as they knew that the only way perverts get new recruits, is to woo or pay them. They woo them by making it acceptable and common place. They cannot have their own children, so they steal others. This makes normal parents very angry. They have spent a good part of their own lives educating their children to be useful members of society, and when their children are ill used and perverted, when they are told by their local teacher, churchman, pop singer, or radio talk back creeps that it quite okay to do things that uneducated dogs and cats cannot and won’t do, then they become very confused. Some leave home, some commit suicide, but not because they had a defect when they were born, but because we have allowed creatures to prey on our young, who are just as savage as those tiger’s earlier discussed.".

The Tribunal found that Ron Owen had vilified 3 local lesbians, but not a local bisexual woman, and ordered that he pay a total of $12,500 in fines and place an apology in the local paper.

The Tribunal held:

However, the sticker went well beyond a mere joke and communicated a message that was both contemptuous and threatening. The bumper sticker implies that homosexuals have no rights, that others do not have to respect the rights of homosexuals, that the death of homosexuals is a good thing and that the killing of homosexuals is justified under God’s law. It conveys an attitude of contempt for the idea that homosexuals have rights. It carries the sinister undertone that homosexuals do not deserve to live.
The ordinary member of the public would, in my opinion, understand that he or she was being urged to hate and to have serious contempt for homosexuals.
The bumper sticker ridicules and is derisory of any claim by homosexuals that they have rights. Its tone is mocking. I find that its display also incited severe ridicule of homosexuals.

It is apparent from the reference in the bumper sticker to “Lev 20:13”... that Mr Owen’s conduct incited hatred towards, serious contempt for and severe ridicule of homosexuals was because such persons feel sexually attracted to members of the same sex or engage in sexual acts with members of the same sex. I find that Mr Owen’s incitement was on the basis of the sexuality of homosexuals.

There is little about the mode of communication of the public act or the content of the bumper sticker that suggests that its purpose, or that one of its purposes, was to promote public discussion or debate about the morality of homosexual activity or to expose such activity. The only reference that may suggest such a purpose is found in the notation “LEV.20:13”. There is no reference on the bumper sticker to any health issues affecting the sexual activity of homosexuals.
The tone of the bumper sticker, as I have already said, is that it conveys contempt for the idea that homosexuals have rights and ridicules and is derisory of any claim that homosexuals have rights. It also appears to be an attempt at “bumper sticker humour” in that it contains a play on the word “rights”. This does not suggest to me that the purpose of displaying the bumper sticker, or one of its purposes was to promote public discussion or debate about or expose the immorality of homosexual activity.
Bearing in mind that Mr Owen carries the onus of proof on this issue, I am not satisfied that the display of the bumper sticker was for any purpose in the public interest, including public discussion or debate or exposition of any act or matter.
Even if it were shown that the display of the bumper sticker was for such a purpose, I would not be satisfied that Mr Owen has shown that it was done reasonably and in good faith.

Even if the display of the bumper sticker was done for the purpose of public discussion or debate about homosexuals or the morality of sexual activity of homosexuals, I would not regard it as having been done reasonably for such purpose, having regard to the content of the sticker. The language of the bumper sticker is derisory and contemptuous. It contains the disturbing undertone that homosexuals deserve to die and that they may legitimately be killed. While strong language and disturbing ideas may legitimately form part of public discussion or debate, it seems to me that the nature, tone and language used in the bumper sticker here goes beyond what is reasonable for the promotion of the requisite purpose.

The next statement made by Mr Owen was “As you have prisoners who break the law lose certain rights and I do believe homosexuals lose rights”. By making this comment Mr Owen was equating homosexuals with prisoners who had broken the law. The implication is that homosexuals are criminals. Mr Owen implied that homosexuality is against the law, or that it ought to be. He indicated that homosexuals should lose rights. His comments applied to all homosexuals, not merely some.

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