Tasmanian man James Durston has been fined $2000 for failing to apologise for anti-gay flyers he distributed in Hobart in 2013.

Durston took an anti-discrimination claim lodged against him over the flyers to Tasmania’s Supreme Court, with Justice Michael Brett refusing Durston’s request to have the complaint dismissed on the grounds of religious freedom in October 2018.

Brett ruled that the sections of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibiting incitement to hatred and offensive language do not limit religious freedom or free speech.

The state’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ordered Durston to publish an apology for the flyers, which featured absurd “homosexuality statistics” in Sandy Bay, a suburb of Hobart.

“It is warned that homosexuality should not be tolerated, and therefore this will benefit both the individual and society,” the flyers began.

The flyers also claimed that lesbians were 307 times more likely to die in accidents than white women aged 25-44, and that gay men were 10 times more likely to die as the result of an accident.

They also suggested that just eight per cent of gay men live to old age, compared to just a quarter of lesbians.

Robert Williams, who lodged the complaint against Durston, said it was never his “intention that Mr Durston be punished financially.”

“I wanted a public apology because that would have undone some of the damage caused by the flyer, particularly to young, vulnerable LGBTI people,” he said.

“The damage done to young and vulnerable people through vilification based on their personal characteristics is immeasurable, whether this is about their faith, disability, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.

“I want all Australians to reach their full potential and make the best contributions they can, but they can’t if other people’s hateful words damage them, especially as they develop into adults.

“I am surprised that Mr Durston doesn’t seem to understand that Tasmania’s laws protect everyone equally, including people of faith, and that what he did was both wrong and illegal regardless of how often he invokes God,” said Williams.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome said the case shows why Tasmania’s lack of an exemption regarding hate speech in the name of a religion should be protected in the religious freedom debate.

“The Durston case shows the value of Tasmania’s strong hate speech laws for promoting a more inclusive society, and why these laws should not be watered down in the name of ‘religious freedom’,” Croome said.

“The message to federal and state governments is to bring Australia’s hate speech laws up to the standard set in Tasmania, rather than taking a step backwards by allowing hate speech in the name of religion.

“Robert Williams deserves the gratitude of LGBTI people around the nation for his calm, patient and resolute action against hate.

“The more often hate speech is called out, the fewer LGBTI Australians will suffer its adverse impacts.”

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