HRLA Successfully Defends a Queensland Mother from a Worthless Vilification Claim

Homosexual Vilification Claim Dropped

In a victory for free speech, the Human Rights Law Alliance has successfully assisted Queensland mother-of-four and photographer, Katrina Tait, to defeat an LGBT activist’s vilification claim.

What started as an innocuous Facebook post, became a five-month journey beginning with personal harassment and followed closely by a complaint of homosexual vilification filed with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. On 25 June 2020, that complaint was withdrawn, and Katrina can now move on with her life free of the stress and anxiety of a claim hanging over her head.

Katrina’s Story

Katrina lives in the suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland and is a Catholic mother with four young children. In January 2020, Katrina made a Facebook post sharing an ACL petition against the public funding of drag queen story time in Brisbane’s public libraries. In her post, she remarked that she didn’t think adult entertainers should be reading stories to children.

This activist tracked down Katrina’s small business details and sent her an e-mail out of the blue alleging and threatening a claim for homosexual vilification under NSW laws. By publicly sharing her views on this very controversial issue, Katrina drew the ire of a well-known LGBT activist in Sydney NSW who has made a career out of bringing large numbers of complaints of homosexual vilification in the Tribunals and Courts of NSW.

This was shortly followed by an e-mail with a purported media release that named Katrina, her business, her previous address and her mobile phone number. This is a practice known as “doxxing”, where personal information is published to encourage harassment and malicious attacks against someone, generally through social media. Katrina was shocked when she received this e-mail. Not only that, the e-mail contained inappropriate threats and a clear indication that this LGBT activist was bringing a politically motivated complaint to shut down ideas that they don’t like. It included the following:

“Fellas, I’m just like a vicious Alsatian dog. Once I grab hold of a gay haters leg, I won’t let go until the bone is bloodied and bare.”

“One way of another, I will get that remedy from Ms Tait, even if it takes me years in court.” 

Katrina was overwhelmed when she received this e-mail.

“The first thing I saw on the email was that it contained a picture of one of my daughters and that really shook me and I broke down in tears. I didn’t know what was happening or why I was being targeted. I was especially worried when I saw that it also contained my previous address and phone number as I was really worried about who else he may have passed it on to. I was really worried that I had put my family in danger of more threats. I was concerned about my 4 young children and my business. I did not want us to be targeted by vicious and nasty public comments.”

Initially distraught at the threatening messages she was receiving, Katrina contacted the Human Rights Law Alliance on the advice of friends who agreed to take on her case and to help defend her against the complaint.

“My first thought was that he was trying to scare and intimidate me to try and get money from me. I felt very vulnerable. When I calmed down, I phoned some friends who suggested I speak to the Human Rights Law Alliance. I spoke to a lawyer there and that put me at ease. It was good to know that someone understood the situation and that made me feel much better. It was really good to know that they could help in this difficult situation. They told me to ignore the email so I did.”

Although disturbed, Katrina ignored the threatening e-mails on advice from HRLA. She heard nothing more until the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board contacted her in April 2020 stating that they had received a complaint about Katrina’s post.

Katrina was surprised that the Anti-Discrimination Board had accepted the complaint. It should have been apparent, on its face, that:

  • Katrina lives in Queensland not New South Wales and is not subject to NSW laws;
  • Katrina was posting on a local Brisbane issue completely unrelated to the complainant;
  • the complainant is a known serial complainant who pursues personal and political agendas through the Anti-Discrimination Board;
  • Katrina made no reference to homosexuals in the post; and
  • Katrina had no connection to the complainant.

Nonetheless, the Anti-Discrimination Board accepted the complaint and decided to investigate it. The Board informed Katrina that this investigation could result in the complaint being sent to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for hearing, where she could potentially receive a fine of up to $100,000 if there was a finding of vilification.

The Anti-Discrimination Board has the powers to decline a complaint at any stage if it is clear that it has no substance. It doesn’t have to investigate a complaint where it is clear that it can’t succeed. Submissions were made to the Anti-Discrimination Board pointing out that not only was the claim lacking in substance, it was also using the Board as a way to harass and to try and obtain a financial settlement from Katrina. Notwithstanding this, the Anti-Discrimination Board pushed the claim forward.

The Anti-Discrimination Board required Katrina to provide a full response to the complaint by the activist. Katrina was told that her explanations would then be sent to the claimant for comment and then the Board would continue its investigation and make a finding and perhaps send it for trial in the NSW Tribunal. Throughout the whole process, Katrina was disappointed with the way that the Anti-Discrimination Board allowed a clearly flawed complaint to consume unnecessary time and energy. Katrina faced what many respondents to these claims face – a process that itself is the punishment.

Providentially, Katrina’s case arose at the same time as the Honourable Mark Latham introduced a Bill in NSW Parliament that is aimed at putting a stop to worthless complaints being accepted and investigated. The Anti-Discrimination Board has a history of accepting complaints with fundamental flaws and allowing serial complainants to use the discrimination system in NSW as a platform to attack Queenslanders.

Katrina’s case was presented to a parliamentary inquiry into Latham’s Bill and there was significant media coverage of her case. With the spotlight on Katrina’s story, the activist finally withdrew the complaint in late June 2020 and gave notice to the Anti-Discrimination Board that it did not wish to proceed.

The Result

This is a success for Katrina. She has now been released from the burden and stress of defending a claim one thousand kilometres away in NSW.

Other victims of serial complainants who abuse the system have not been so lucky. Conservative Catholic blogger Bernard Gaynor (also in Queensland) has a 7-year (and continuing) battle on his hands defending himself against the same serial complainant. A local NSW man, John Sunol, has been harassed with multiple complaints despite the fact that he is on a disability pension and has a cognitive impairment. These are reckless abuses of the NSW legal system that warrant changes to NSW law and an overhaul of vilification laws which allow these claims which hound and harass ordinary Australians, clog up the Court system and waste taxpayers’ money.

Katrina’s case highlights the very real threat that these kinds of claims pose to ordinary Australians who should be able to participate in public debate and share their views freely without fear of being targeted by LGBT activists. Ideas should be met with ideas, not lawfare.

Vilification laws should not be used to silence reasonable opinions and create a culture where people censor themselves. HRLA supports the majority of the modest reforms suggested by the Mark Latham’s Bill. If you want to learn more about the proposals, you can access HRLA’s submission on the NSW Parliament’s Website

John Steenhof
Principal Lawyer
Human Rights Law Alliance