Brisbane’s LGBTI Legal Service has lodged a formal complaint of vilification against 25 people who “engaged in public acts of hate speech” during the same-sex marriage postal survey last year.
LGBTI Legal Service President Matilda Alexander said the service had collected over 220 examples of hate speech, ranging from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters around university campuses during the three-month campaign.
From these examples, the Legal Service selected the “worst of the worst” to take legal action against under Queensland’s vilification laws. Today they lodged a formal complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.
The state’s vilification laws prohibit publicly engaging in hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severely ridiculing someone because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“These Queensland laws draw a line between hate speech and free speech, recognising the harmful and destructive impact of vilification,” Alexander said.
The LGBTI Legal Service received funding from the Queensland Government last year to monitor and bring to account people engaging in unlawful hate speech during the postal survey campaign.
Alexander said they were lodging the complaint on behalf of all LGBTIQ people around Australia who had endured hatred during the campaign.
“We are taking this action against people who think ‘It’s ok to say no’ means it’s okay to say ‘Burn the faggots’ or ‘Send poofters to their own island’ or ‘You are all getting rooftopped’ or ‘Hitler had the right idea about homosexuals, burn them,'” she said.
“These shocking comments are hate speech and today we are holding the perpetrators to account.”
Alexander said people named in the complaint would be required to meet with the ADCQ, and given an opportunity to make amends, including removing offensive material and making an apology.
If they refused, she said the service would pursued under the state’s anti-discrimination act in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Alexander said the postal survey “opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate” and the Legal Service’s case “will close that door.”
“To those who would publicly vilify and condemn us for our simple acts of love, we say enough is enough,” she said.
“We have been shamed, shunned and looked down on for too many years. We have protections in the law and today we will use those legal protections to fight back.
“We stand with you and we stand up for you.”
The LGBTI Legal Service provides free and confidential legal advice to LGBTIQ Queenslanders, either in person at their Fortitude Valley office or over the phone.
In July, the service offered free assistance to Queensland men who want to get their historical gay sex convictions wiped from their criminal records.
Last year, marriage equality campaigners revealed to a Senate inquiry the shocking extent of the anti-gay abuse they received during the postal survey campaign.
In a submission to the inquiry looking at the process of the survey, including the government’s protections against offensive material and behaviour, The Equality Campaign included numerous examples of the abusive messages they received via mail, text message and email, containing threats of death and violence and anti-gay language and slurs.
The Senate committee wrote in its report that the abuse “is a direct result of the postal survey process and would not have occurred had the parliament simply debated and voted on legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.”