The importance of strong legal precedents

A recent vilification claim brought by a transgender activist has been dismissed by the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). The decision drew on a similar vilification case involving HRLA client Lyle Shelton.

The Tribunal found that the claim, brought by transgender activist Claire Southey against Australian media outlets for an article referring to a transgender inmate in a women’s prison, “did not vilify transgender people or link gender identity with criminal behaviour”.

The original article, published in the Herald Sun, reported that female inmates in a women’s prison had petitioned for a transgender prisoner with a history of violent sexual offending against females be relocated from the female prison.

The complainant argued that “the article uncritically repeated claims that the person’s trans status caused other inmates to feel ‘unsafe’, ‘threatened’ and ‘traumatised’.”

In dismissing the claim, NCAT found that:

... the article did not either state or imply that transgender persons as a class or subclass engaged in general or regularly or significantly in serious criminalism conduct and constituted a ‘threat’ to people who are not transgender.

It also found the article did not “incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of this applicant”.

Of note, the decision refers to the principles that were applied in Valkyrie and Hill v Shelton, the decision of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Council concerning the vilification claim brought against Lyle Shelton by two drag queens. HRLA assisted Lyle to defend himself against this claim.

This case illustrates the importance of HRLA’s work seeking to establish landmark precedents which keep the public square open for all Australians to live by their conscience and to think and act freely.

By choosing strategic legal cases that protect religious freedom and establish good precedents, HRLA’s work contributes to ensuring that the protection of religious freedoms, which are guaranteed in international law, are not eroded within Australia.