Activist Garry Burns seeks community support to meet legal costs

Anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns is asking the LGBTIQ+ communities and their supporters around Australia to come to his aid as he faces crippling legal bills.

For many years Burns has taken on people who make homophobic statements in the public realm by calling them to account via legal avenues.

In 2002 he successfully tested the homosexual vilification provisions of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 with a complaint of personal homosexual vilification against broadcaster John Laws and Sydney radio station 2UE that concluded in his favour.

He has also launched complaints against former Victoria Premier Jeff Kennett, Channel Nine’s The Footy Show, and aspiring politicians like Katter’s Australia Party candidate Tess Corbett.

His most recent campaign to the High Court however did not fall in his favour, and with a court order to pay his opponents legal costs of $81,644.70. Burns has now launched a GoFundMe campaign and is reaching out to the LGBTIQ+ people across Australia to help him out.

“If 82,000 people donated one dollar, I could easily raise the funds required to pay those costs. I don’t want to be left destitute because I stood up in defence of homosexuals and fought the good fight all the way to the High Court of Australia.” Burns said in a media release announcing the fundraising effort.

In 2013 Burns filed a complaint with the President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act Board (ADB ) alleging comments published by then Katter’s Australia Party candidate Tess Corbett comparing gays to pedophiles breached the anti-vilification provisions of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

Tess Corbett, the candidate for the Victorian seat of Wannon, publicly said in 2013 that she did not want “gays, lesbians or pedophiles working in my kindergarten”.

“Pedophiles will be next in line to be recognised in the same way as gays and lesbians, and get rights,“ she said.

The case was referred to Tribunal (NCAT).

The Tribunal substantiated Burns’ application and orders were made by the Tribunal for Ms Corbett to apologise in writing to Mr Burns and publish an apology to the gay community in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tess Corbett did not comply and Burns unsuccessfully commenced proceedings in the NSW Supreme Courts, to get Corbett to comply with the orders.

Burns appealed to the High Court of Australia, which dismissed his appeal and ordered him to pay the respondent’s costs. He now has a legal bill of $81,644.70 which he cannot pay. Burns’ appeal before the full bench of the High Court of Australia was dismissed in April.

The High Court ordered Burns to pay the respondents costs of his failed appeal. In September Burns sought ex-gratia payment from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice to cover those costs because he didn’t have the funds from his own pocket to do so.

In October Burns was sent an invoice from the Respondents solicitor to pay the outstanding amount within 7 days, and today the solicitor for the respondent’s has served Burns a Bankruptcy Notice in relation to the Corbett High Court costs.

With a letter from the General Counsel for Communities and Justice’s office indicating that they will not be able to help pay the costs, Burns is now desperate for help from the community.

While the is a chance the Attorney General may consider reviewing the decision to not provide support, Burns has run out of time and is turning to the queer community.

“I initiated these legal proceedings against Ms Corbett in the public interest and not for any personal monetary gain to protect homosexuals from public acts of unlawful homosexuality vilification under the ADA 1977 (NSW ) and now I find myself in this dire position.” Burns said of his predicament.

“I am not only asking LGBTI Australians to help but all those Australians who support a fair and decent Australian in 2019 to donate what they can,” Burns said. “Thank you for any help you can give.”

If you’d like to contribute head to the GoFundMe page

OIP Staff