Tasmania’s Supreme Court has denied the appeal of Launceston man James Durston who was accused of distributing vicious anti-LGBTI flyers in 2013.
Justice Michael Brett rejected Durston’s appeal, finding that the sections of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act that prohibit incitement to hatred and offensive language do not impinge on religious freedom or free speech, and are constitutionally valid.
The flyers began with the sentence, “It is warned that homosexuality should not be tolerated, and therefore this will benefit both the individual and society.”
Other claims included that lesbians were 307 times more likely to die in accidents than white women aged 25-44, while gay men were 10 times more likely to die in accidents.
It suggested just eight per cent of gay men live to old age compared to just a quarter of lesbians.
Robert Williams, the Hobart man who lodged the original anti-discrimination complaint against Mr Durston, said the decision showed Tasmania is on the forefront of combating the rise of anti-LGBTI hate speech.
“This decision reinforces my pride in being Tasmanian because Tasmania is leading the nation when it comes to protecting citizens from hate speech,” Williams said.
“The protection offered by our laws and our courts promotes inclusion, mature political debate, and respect between all citizens regardless of who we are.”
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome said the decision shows Tasmanian law strikes the right balance between upholding free speech and preventing hate speech.
“Today’s decision is very important because it puts the bed the long-term question, raised in almost all previous Tasmanian hate speech cases, about whether the state’s hate-speech laws breach freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and whether they are constitutional.
“Justice Brett has put forward a careful, rigorous and unassailable argument that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not unfettered rights, and that the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act strikes the right balance between these rights and right of citizens to live free from hate and vilification,” said Croome.
“I urge state and federal governments heed this decision and back away from any attempts to water down laws that have helped make Tasmania a more inclusive and cohesive society.”
Williams’ claim was made under Sections 17 and 19 of the Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibit offensive conduct and incitement to hatred.
They are some of Australia’s strongest and most comprehensive safeguards against discriminatory speech.
Last year the Tasmanian Government sought to limit the reach of the anti-discrimination laws by removing legal protections against discrimination and speech which incites hatred and ridicule for religious purposes as a result of the postal survey announcement.