Gay activist Gary Burns has been granted an appeal in his anti-vilification battle with former radio presenter John Laws for calling a gay celebrity a pillow biter on air.
But the appeal will be limited to whether Laws’s comments were a public act, done reasonably and in good faith for debate of public interest.
Last year the Administrative Decisions Tribunal was unanimous that Laws calling Queer Eye host Carson Kressley a pompous little pansy prig was done in good faith, but was divided on whether it met the reasonableness test to excuse vilification inciting severe ridicule.
The new appeal will not consider whether the comments amounted to inciting hatred or serious contempt, which were rejected last year.
Freedom of speech and expression is not limited to what might be called polite, decent or tasteful expression but is a freedom which embraces offensive, rude, hostile, derogatory and angry speech or expression, and speech or expression that is tasteless, insensitive and undignified, last week’s decision by the ADT Appeals panel stated.
The panel dismissed the idea reasonableness could be assessed subjectively. A further eight appeals on interpretation of law and terminology were dismissed.
In our view, it is vital to the effective operation of an anti-vilification law of the present kind that persons actively engaged in otherwise offensive discourse with the wider community demonstrate conscientiousness in upholding the policy and objectives of anti-vilification provisions, Justice O’Connor wrote.
Laws published an apology to the gay and lesbian community several weeks after the on-air comments and interviewed ACON CEO Stevie Clayton on his program.
It was clear he believed he was just ridiculing an individual and didn’t understand that, if you’re a member of a group that is regularly discriminated against, comments like that can be very damaging, Clayton said after meeting Laws.
Burns said he was optimistic of a final victory when the matter returns to the ADT.