The string of anti-homophobia protests planned during the Pope’s visit to Sydney can go ahead, the Federal Court has ruled.
The court on Tuesday struck down the annoyance regulations created by the State Government’s World Youth Day Authority.
The judges agreed with Rachel Evans from Community Action Against Homophobia and the No To Pope Coalition that the regulation was too vague and had a chilling effect upon the exercise of their freedom of speech.
This is an incredible victory for free speech in NSW, Evans told Sydney Star Observer. We are planning to be as out as possible with our message -” whether or not it’s annoying -” with T-shirts, flamboyancy, condoms and coathangers, all of it will be there.
However, it was not an outright win. The judges upheld regulations that authorise police to move on protesters who cause inconvenience to pilgrims, as well as limitations on the distribution of religious items, clothing and food and drink during the WYD period.
Those remaining restrictions would not impact the protests planned for Saturday, Evans said.
Because the judges said [the regulation limited political expression] and because there’s been so much of an uproar and support, the Government’s going to find it very hard to fine anyone $5,500 for protesting, she said. We’re prepared to take that to court and debate whether we inconvenienced a pilgrim.
The No To Pope Coalition will march from Taylor Square to Moore Park from noon this Saturday, where the pilgrims will be gathered, carrying banners declaring that gay is great, the Pope is wrong, put a condom on as well as highlighting the significant rise in STIs in Australia and the teaching of abstinence in Australian schools. Vanessa Wagner will also host a kiss-in at Taylor Square.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said the victory was a good one, but would not be a long-term solution to the government’s impinging on political expression.
It’s really clear basic rights like the right to protest are under threat in NSW, he said.
Without this case, many thousands at the rally on Saturday would have been fined and arrested. It shouldn’t be necessary to go to court to ask for a basic right.
The Government’s WYD spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, said there would be no attempt to pass new laws to get around the court ruling.
Evans and the No To Pope Coalition were assisted in the Federal Court action by barrister Stephen Blanks, who offered his services for free.

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