Lyle Shelton case heads to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal

A case pitting conservative commentator and aspiring politician Lyle Shelton against two drag performers will head to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) next week.

Shelton is defending a complaint from drag performers Dwayne Hill who performs as Diamond, and Johnny Valkyrie. The pair are asking for financial compensation and a public apology over a blog post published in early 2020.

Shelton’s initial post followed a protest by Queensland University’s Young Liberals and National Club that targeted a children’s event at the Brisbane City Library. While the two drag queens were delivering a story reading and craft event, the protestors gathered outside the room and chanted “Drag Queens are not for kids.”

Following a social media backlash and media reporting, the leader of the group Wilson Gavin tragically took his own life the following day.  Shelton posted an article to his website which the claimants assert was of the kind to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of both the two performers personally, and in general Drag Queens, people who are transgender, people with same-sex attraction and human rights and community advocates.

In particular the complaint raises concern over alleged assertions that the two performers are dangerous to young people, and that Valkyrie is dangerous because he is transgender. They highlight that they both have Working with Children cards.

The performers also take issue with comments Shelton made in his initial post which they say compared them to child sex offenders. In his article Shelton asked his readers: “Have we learned nothin from creeps like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew?”

Concern is also raised over suggestions that drag performer Diamond is linked to the pornography and “sex trade” industries. While the drag performer was given an award from the adult entertainment industry, they state they have never been involved in pornography or sex work.

The lawsuit argues that given Shelton’s high profile as a public commentator, alongside his public profile as the former head of the Australian Christian Lobby and the head of the ‘No’ campaign against marriage equality, his comments would have been seen and heard by thousands of people.

The claim argues that Shelton’s comments have had a serious effect on the mental health of both performers and made them fearful that people will see them as pedophiles.

They requested that Shelton removes the article, makes a public apology or retraction and refrain from making similar statements in the future. They also ask for compensation of $10,000 each for the loss and damage caused.

The case has progressed through failed mediation processes and is now set to be heard in the QCAT over three days.

Shelton is being represented by John Steenhof from the Human Rights Law Alliance, while the two drag queens are represented by Queensland’s LGBTI Legal Service.

“The outcome of this case is significant for the future of fundamental human rights in Australia, where the limits of free speech and debate on matters of public interest will be tested.” Steenhof said on the organisation’s website.

“Lyle will be arguing that his free speech about the significant issues of gender ideology and the innocence of children should be protected as a matter of public interest. It is essential to the health of our society that free and open debate on issues of public interest are allowed, and indeed encouraged, to occur.

“Lyle’s case is a significant case for free speech in Australia and will be a litmus test on the health of our pluralistic liberal democracy.” Steenhof said.

The case is scheduled to be heard from Monday.

OIP Staff

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