Discrimination campaigner Garry Burns to sue Israel Folau

Sydney based anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns is suing Folau for $100,000 via the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). Mr Burns has lodged a complaint with the President of the NSW ADB.

Burns, who successfully sued radio broadcaster John Laws for $10,000 in 2004 for anti-gay comments — which he donated to HIV/AIDS charity, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation—is known for lodging anti-discrimination complaints about homophobic comments utilising the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act (ADA) 1977.

In his submission to the President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Dr Annabelle Bennett , Burns alleged Folau’s socal media comments about gay people breached Section 49ZT of the ADA.

A copy of the complaint said: “On or about 11 April 2019 … Mr Folau published a warning that hell awaits homosexuals.

“By publishing those statements … Mr Folau has portrayed homosexual men and women as people who should be shunned and/or avoided on the grounds of their homosexuality and by doing so, has breached the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977,” wrote Burns.

Burns also took umbrage with Folau’s comments linking the current bushfire and drought crises in Eastern Australia with homosexuality.

“On or about 17 November 2019 … Mr Folau said: ‘God says for a man and a woman to be together, one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage … they’ve changed that law and now they’ve legalised same-sex marriage.’

“‘Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come, in a short period of time. You think it’s a coincidence or not? God is speaking to you guys. Australia, you need to repent.’”

Burns said Folau’s linking of homosexuality to natural disasters such as bushfires, drought, loss of property and human life was “objectively capable of incitement of contempt and/or hatred of homosexual persons on the ground of their homosexuality … under the Anti Discrimination Act 1977”.

He alleged Folau’s comments portrayed “homosexual persons as a group within the Australian populace to be avoided and/or shunned on the grounds of homosexuality … as being sick, perverted or dirty.”.

In lodging his complaint, Burns also expressed concern for young LGBTQI Australians, who he said were vulnerable to statements by prominent public figures.

“Folau’s statements in relation to transgender and homosexual Australians [are] capable of having a dire effect on … teens who may suffer from low self esteem issues.

“The continual targeting of them by Mr Folau in the media … as inferior … could lead those teens to suicide,” he said.

“I alleged Mr Folau’s linking of my homosexuality to the cause of natural disasters like bushfires, drought and death of animals like [koalas] … kangaroos and other wildlife, and human death, is pernicious and unlawful under ADA 1977,” Burns concluded.

The activist said that if successful, he would donate the $100,000 to LGBTQI youth support service, Minus18.

Burns is currently embroiled in another legal battle over homophobic comments.

He was recently hit with an $82.000 legal bill after a failed court High Court Appeal ( Burns v Corbett ( 2018 ) HCA 15 ) against former Victorian political candidate Tess Corbett, who compared gays to paedophiles. Burns is currently utilising crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to raise funds to pay the bill.

Folau was sacked by his employer Rugby Australia and is currently pursuing them through legal action. He recently amended his complaint raising the amount of damages he is seeking to $14 million. Folau’s legal defence fund organised by the Australian Christian Lobby raised over $2million for his cause.