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Anti-discrimination Vilification Case Filed Against Hate Speech During the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey

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The LGBTI Legal Service lodged today a complaint of vilification against 25 people responsible for engaging in public acts of hate speech during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey last year.

Last year, the LGBTI Legal Service received State Government funding to monitor and bring to account people engaging in unlawful hate speech during the postal survey. This project resulted in the complaint lodged today with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland.

During the postal survey, the LGBTI Legal Service collected over 220 examples of hate speech. The hate speech ranges from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters around university campuses. From these examples, the LGBTI Legal Service selected the worst of the worst to sue under the Queensland vilification laws. These laws prohibit publicly engaging in hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule 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.

Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service, said:

To those who would publicly vilify and condemn us for our simple acts of love, we say enough is enough. 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 lodge this action on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender queer and intersex communities around Australia who endured hatred during the postal survey.  We stand with you and we stand up for you. We are taking this action against people who think “its ok to say no” means it’s ok 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”. These shocking comments are hate speech and today we are holding the perpetrators to account.

The Postal Survey opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate. This case will close that door.

Contact: Matilda Alexander (President) president@lgbtilegalservice.org

Listen on ABC Breakfast Radio: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/brisbane/programs/breakfast/breakfast/10163254

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vilification?

If someone publicly incites hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of someone because they identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay, it may be vilification. Vilification is against the law in Queensland under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

Does this conflict with freedom of religion or freedom of speech?

No. Hate speech will not be unlawful if it is done reasonably and in good faith for academic, scientific, artistic, research or religious discussion, or other purposes in the public interest or a fair report of a public act.

When will we know the outcome of the case?

The case will proceed through the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) conciliation process.  If this does not resolve the complaint to our satisfaction we will consider taking it to QCAT. This process could take over a year.  We will be represented by Clayton Utz who have provided pro bono assistance throughout this project.

How can I find out more about laws about hate speech?

A good place to get information is the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland: https://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/resources/lgbti-people/Sexuality-and-your-rights.

Also, if you or anyone you know has experienced unlawful discrimination or vilification (hate speech), we encourage you to book an appointment to speak with our lawyers at the LGBTI Legal Service.

Why now?

There is a 12-month limitation on bringing complaints of discrimination and vilification.  Many people reported hate speech to us over the survey period and we were required to consider each instance through a legal lens in order to decide whether it constituted hate speech and whether an exemption applied.  After doing this, we found we had over 220 cases we could bring, however we wanted to ensure the focus was on the worst offenders.  We have also been working to track down the people responsible for Facebook posts, which took time.

What if people used a different name on Facebook?

Many people engaging in this activity hide behind fake profiles on the internet and IP addresses can be tracked to make real people accountable for actions such as Facebook posts.

Image courtesy Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

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LGBTI Legal Service

Applications Open: Volunteer Marketing and Events Director

Did you know we are seeking an organised, self-motivated person who is able to coordinate our marketing and events operations? We are looking for a Marketing and Events Director who can lead collaboratively, take initiative and see the connection between strategy and operations.

Ideal candidates will exhibit the following qualities:

  1. An excellent awareness of the issues facing the LGBTIQ+ community and a commitment to equal access to justice.
  2. Currently undertaking or having completed a marketing-related degree.
  3. Strong skills in technology and online social media platforms.
  4. Demonstrated ability to effectively coordinate a team, work as an efficient team member and use initiative with minimum supervision.
  5. Demonstrated ability to bring together resources and manage multiple tasks simultaneously and efficiently.

If you are interested, please view the position description and apply via hr@lgbtilegalservice.org before by close of business on 24 August 2018.

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Expungement of Historical Homosexual Convictions

The following media release was published by the Human Rights Law Centre at https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2018/7/23/legal-service-to-clear-unjust-convictions-launched on 23 July 2018:

Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: legal service to clear unjust convictions launched

People in Queensland who have convictions for historic consensual same-sex activity can now apply to have their criminals records removed through the LGBTI Legal Service.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the team were looking forward to helping repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The aim of this service is to ensure that individuals affected by convictions can finally be free from these unjust charges. This will go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these homophobic laws had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, for government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

For those who have died with their convictions active, this service presents an opportunity for family members to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the service will help repair the harm caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal. The Human Rights Law Centre have been advocating for schemes across the country, and has been providing legal assistance to those with criminal convictions for a number of years.

“People should never have been criminalised because of who they are or who they love. This is a great step towards helping people whose love was criminalised by these unjust laws. Now, at least, the practical barriers imposed by these convictions can be removed,” said Carnie.

Queensland now joins Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions. NT is in the process of setting up a scheme and legislation is currently before the WA parliament.

The Human Rights Law Centre have been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have lobbied for this reform for many years — including the LGBTI Legal Service, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

To find out more information about how to apply for a conviction to be ‘expunged’ visit the Queensland Government website.

The LGBTI Legal Service encourages members of the community who wish to access the expungement scheme to get in touch. To make a confidential query or an appointment with the LGBTI Legal Service for assistance with an application visit here.

For people in other states requiring assistance please contact the Human Rights Law Centre.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

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Transgender Marriage Equality Law Announced

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The LGBTI Legal Service celebrates the announcement by the Queensland Government of changes to be introduced to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 (Qld) this week.

This reform fixes a problematic section of the Act that states:

The reassignment of a person’s sex after sexual reassignment surgery may be noted in the person’s entry in the register of births or adopted children register only if the person is not married.

The LGBTI Legal Service provides free legal advice to Queensland’s LGBTI community on matters relating to their gender identity and sexuality.

The LGBTI Legal Service has provided advice to many transgender clients who were caught in this bizarre and destructive legal technicality.  Until now, we have sadly had to advise clients who want to pursue a change to their gender that they must first seek a divorce. Soon, transgender people will be able to stay married through their gender transition.

President of the LGBTI Legal Service, Matilda Alexander, commented:

Our clients are faced with an impossible choice between embracing their true gender identity by divorcing their supportive partner or continuing to live under the oppression of an official gender that does not match their identity but keeping their marriage.

This change demonstrates the continued journey towards marriage equality for the LGBTI community.  Last year, gay and lesbian Australians fought and won the right to equal love and the announcement will bring marriage equality to transgender people in Queensland as well.

The LGBTI Legal Service continues to call for further reforms of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003 and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to continue these important steps towards equality in Queensland.

Contact: Matilda Alexander (President) – president@lgbtilegalservice.org

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Applications Open – Law Clerk/Administration Assistant

We are hiring! The LGBTI Legal Service seeks a Law Clerk/Administration Assistant at our Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) office on a casual basis to work two days per week. Please read the position description and selection criteria. Applications should be made by email to solicitor@lgbtilegalservice.org by COB on 9 February 2018.

For further details, please see the position description and selection criteria on our website or download this position description (PDF, 519.7 KB)

Apply now!

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LGBTI Legal Service announces new location

Australia’s only community legal centre that exists for the LGBTI community has a new name and new office!

New name and premises

The LGBTI Legal Service Inc., formerly known as the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Legal Service Inc., is excited to continue to provide free legal advice to Queensland’s LGBTI community from its new office at Level 2, 725 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley from 17 January 2018.

725 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley

 

Service delivery

The Service provides free legal advice and services to people facing legal problems relating to their identification as LGBTI or where they prefer to discuss their legal problems with a solicitor who has specific skills, interest and understanding of issues and barriers faced by the LGBTI community.

The Service’s free legal advice service includes advice on the following areas:

  • family law (separation/relationship breakdowns, children and property settlements);
  • domestic violence;
  • surrogacy and parental rights;
  • criminal law and victims’ support;
  • employment law (including unfair dismissal, workplace bullying and harassment);
  • unlawful discrimination;
  • gender identification; and
  • some civil law matters.

Persons who identify as LGBTI or who have a LGBTI-related legal issue who don’t know where to turn for legal advice or assistance may contact the Service on 07 3124 7160 or by email to mail@lgbtilegalservice.org. The Service offers free legal advice provided by experienced lawyers either face-to-face or by telephone, by appointment, on Wednesdays from 6.15 pm.

In particular cases, the Service may now also be able to take on case work and represent clients.

Christmas closure

The Service will be closed from midday on Friday, 22 December 2017 and will reopen on Wednesday, 3 January 2018.

Contact

Emile McPhee – Executive Director – director@lgbtilegalservice.org

(This media release was also published at http://communitylegalqld.org.au/node/2086)

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‘Like Love’ project reveals hotbed of hate speech throughout Marriage Survey period

The LGBTI Legal Service has collected over 220 examples of hate speech throughout the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in a project aimed at addressing unlawful vilification.

The ‘Like Love’ project has monitored social media, news websites and public spaces to track public statements that incite ridicule or hatred on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity.

“Unfortunately, throughout the Marriage Law Postal Survey it has been virtually impossible for anyone who identifies as queer to avoid exposure to views which condemn who they are as a person,” said Matilda Alexander, President of the LGBTI Legal Service.

Source: ABS via abs.gov.au/…/AMLPS_survey_form.pdf (CC-BY 2.5 AU)

“The Postal Survey has opened the door to homophobia and vilification being expressed under the guise of legitimate debate.

“Instead of a legitimate debate, the LGBTI community has had to put up with weeks of destructive commentary which only takes society backwards on the progress which has lead to broader acceptance of LGBTI people in the last 30 years,” she explained.

The LGBTI Legal Service has received submissions of hate speech from community members as well as using project workers to monitor spaces.

The hate speech ranges from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering posters in various public locations.

The LGBTI Legal Service is now preparing a complaint under anti-discrimination laws.

Media contact

Matilda Alexander – president@lgbtilegalservice.org07 3124 7160

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Righting the wrongs of Queensland’s homophobic past: Government to allow to clear unjust convictions

Overnight, the Queensland Parliament passed a law that will provide a way for people to have convictions for consensual same-sex activity removed from their criminals records.

Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 can assist to repair the lifelong trauma people have endured.

“The goal of those reforms is to ensure that individuals affected by those convictions or charges no longer need to disclose them in any circumstances and to go some way towards repairing the significant and lasting harm that these have had on Queenslanders,” said McPhee.

Phil Browne, Convenor of the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group said that it was important to recognise the lasting impact and suffering caused by the historic laws.

“Despite the Legalisation of Gay Sex Act 26 years ago, people with these convictions for consensual activity remain convicted criminals. They haven’t been able to apply for certain jobs or travel to certain countries. They may have endured public arrests leading to being fired, shunned by family and friends, kicked out of accommodation, named in newspapers, and even feeling they were run out of town,” said Browne.

With the new law Queensland joins Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT in providing a system for people to clear their records of unjust convictions.

Peter Black, Vice-President of the Queensland AIDS Council, said the old laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, but also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community.

“These wounds run deep, which is why it is vital that any expungement scheme be advertised and accessible to a particularly vulnerable cohort of people who have lived through decades of criminalisation, discrimination and stigma,’ said Black.

For those who have died with their convictions active, the reforms present an opportunity for families to restore dignity and respect to their memory and name.

Lee Carnie, a Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Criminal Law (Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement) Bill 2017 will help repair the harms caused by convictions leftover from when homosexual activity was illegal.

“We welcome the Queensland Government’s important step to help people whose love was criminalised by unjust laws. It’s not only a symbolic win, it will also remove practical barriers imposed by these unfair convictions. This will allow people to move on with their lives. It’s great news, well done to all involved,” said Carnie.

While consensual homosexual activity was decriminalised on 29 November 1990, convictions for those offences remain on people’s records today. These offences need to be disclosed even decades later when applying for a BlueCard, government and other positions (such as a police officer), or a visa to travel overseas.

The LGBTI Legal Service has been proud to work alongside a coalition of LGBTI community organisations which have been lobbying for these reforms for many years — including the Human Rights Law Centre, Queensland AIDS Council, Caxton Legal Centre, Brisbane Pride, Community Legal Centres Queensland and the Brisbane LGBTIQ Action Group.

Case study: Alan’s story

One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws was Alan Raabe who was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat.

“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” said Raabe.

For further comments or queries please contact:

Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service, 0438 766 176.

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“Like Love” – Stop Hate Speech

The LGBTI Legal Service is running the Like Love project to address vilification during the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey period.

Vilification is a public act or statement that incites others to hate a person or their group because of their gender identity or sexuality. A public act includes publication on the internet. Vilification is UNLAWFUL in Queensland. If you live in Queensland and hear or see something in your neighbourhood, post box, or on social media that incites hatred on the basis of gender identity or sexuality, we advise you to record or screen capture it (including the date and time) and seek legal advice.

Comments saying that, for example, gay people are more likely to be rapists or paedophiles have been found to be unlawful vilification in other legal cases. These kind of comments are not excused by the right to free speech.

The LGBTI Legal Service acknowledges that this time is particularly difficult for many members of our community – if you would benefit from mental health assistance you may want to access one of the services listed on the website of our friends at QuAC.

Have you encountered vilifying material?

If you encounter vilifying material, you may wish to:

  1. Take legal action yourself – in this case we recommend initially seeking legal advice through our free service. Please complete an intake form and send it to us along with the vilifying material. Please be aware that time limitations for seeking legal advice apply.

OR

  1. Submit the offensive material to the LGBTI Legal Service for possible use as part of a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission at the end of the campaign period.

In both cases please contact the LGBTI Legal Service on likelove@lgbtilegalservice.org with the vilifying material attached.

About vilification laws

You can find more general information about vilification on Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commission website at:

Some examples of vilification on the basis of sexuality or gender identity include:

  • a radio host using highly offensive homophobic language, laughing at and belittling gay and bisexual men on the air;
  • posters that say that lesbian mothers are damaging their children because they are exposed to their mothers’ sexuality; or
  • adverse comments inciting hatred towards all gay men written on a gay man’s publicly accessible social media page for his business.

There may also be other options you can consider such as making an application to the Commonwealth Attorney General under the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017 (Cth).

Please note that merely advocating for either the “Vote YES” or “Vote NO” campaigns does not automatically mean that a legal issue arises. The law endeavours to strike a balance between the right to freedom of political communications and the prohibiting of discriminatory speech.

Are you from outside Queensland?

Please note that anti-discrimination and vilification laws vary in each state and territory. If you are located outside Queensland, you can seek legal advice from your local community legal centre. Find your local community legal centre at the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

Have a “Vote NO” enquiry?

Whilst the LGBTI Legal Service actively advocates for the rights and liberties of LGBTI people, including the “Vote YES” campaign, we do not condone unlawful discriminatory or vilifying acts of any person(s). Our service believes in legal equality for all.

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