The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby will meet with the state Attorney-General’s department this week to discuss their concerns about an attempt to scale back homosexual vilification laws.
Anti-gay state senator Fred Nile believes the existing legislation outlawing homosexual vilification, which was added to the Anti-Discrimination Act in 1993, is getting in the way of free speech and should be changed.
Nile recently tabled a private member’s bill titled Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Homosexual Vilification Repeal) in response to several media broadcasters -“ including John Laws, Steve Price and Sam Newman -“ being taken to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board for making statements on air that were considered to vilify homosexuals.
While it’s unlikely Nile’s bill would be supported by either the Labor or Liberal parties, Lobby co-convenor David Scamell is worried it could spark an unproductive public debate over the issue.
The Lobby plans to let the Attorney-General’s department know they’re strongly against the bill and want to see it quashed straight away.
We’re not concerned it will pass, said Scamell.
But even though the bill is sitting there doing nothing, we’re worried it could turn into an uneducated debate where Nile will say this is all about free speech.
We’ve already had that debate over 10 years ago. And this isn’t about freedom of speech. Homosexual vilification legislation is about protecting people’s lives.
Critics of homosexual vilification legislation attempt to portray it as a tool used by the gay lobby to restrict freedom of speech, or as political correctness gone mad, Scamell said.
Their criticism is based upon the misguided belief that the legislation is only enacted to silence criticism of gays and lesbians within mainstream media.
An examination of the nature of complaints made to the Anti-Discrimination Board regarding homosexual vilification shows this is incorrect.
The majority of incidences of homosexual vilification relate to either general public conduct or private disputes.
The Lobby will also run a campaign aimed at making the queer community aware of the issue and to urge them to write letters to MPs expressing their concerns.
Homosexual vilification was outlawed following recommendations from a number of reports including the Anti-Discrimination Board’s study into HIV/AIDS discrimination delivered to the Liberal government in 1992.
That report found that violence against gay men has been encouraged by public vilification of gay men.
In 2003 the NSW Attorney-General’s department released a report which revealed 56 percent of lesbians and gay men had experienced homophobic abuse or violence in the previous 12 months, and 85 percent of lesbians and gay men have experienced harassment or violence during their lifetime.