Councillor who called gays 'un-human' forced to apologise

RON Owen has been found to have broken Queensland's anti-discrimination laws, after an eight-year legal battle over comments he made about homosexuality.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Ann Fitzpatrick found Mr Owen had breached the law with statements about homosexuals in a council report, a community newsletter and a website posting in 2005, according to a report on The Guardian Australia website.

Ms Fitzpatrick found Mr Owen went beyond expressing his own opinions, but also had urged others to hate gays, the article said.

The saga began at a Cooloola Shire Council meeting, at which Mr Owen, then a councillor, was challenged by then-Cooloola Coast councillor Peter Cantrell about his claims to be a champion of individual rights.

Cr Cantrell asked how he could claim to champion human rights while having a bumper sticker which claimed to quote the bible as saying "The only right gays have is the right to die."

Mr Owen denied a Gympie Times report on the meeting, in which he was quoted as saying this was probably because he did not regard gays as human.

Mr Owen also responded in material he published in a report to the council, a community newsletter and a website.

Richelle Menzies and Rhonda Bruce complained to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, which found against Mr Owen on a number of counts. Mr Owen appealed against that decision in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

Ultimately the matter was heard again this year in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

In findings announced last week, the tribunal found that Mr Owen's breach of anti-discrimination laws came in the form of an August 2005 report which he made to Cooloola Shire Council, entitled "Community morals and youth protection."

He reportedly called for homosexuals to be banned from going near schools, scout halls or churches, among other places.

In a newsletter inserted in letterboxes in parts of Gympie, Mr Owen reportedly defended his views by recalling his statement in council: "I used words to the effect of, 'If a person chooses to partake in un-human activities, they lose their human rights."

Ms Fitzpatrick ruled that "by seeking to convince his constituents of the reasonableness of his views, he is in reality asking them to adopt the same contempt for homosexuals that he feels."

She ordered Owen to give a private apology - "genuine, unqualified and in his own words" - to the complainants.

Gympie Times

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