Australian politician fined, apology demanded 2 years after complaining about LGBT flag
SYDNEY, Australia, August 7, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — An Australian tribunal ruled that a deputy mayor was guilty of violating the Anti-Discrimination Act because of her comments to a neighbor on the day voters approved same-sex “marriage,” imposing a significant fine.
Julie Passas, a former deputy mayor of Inner West Council in Sydney, was alleged to have offended a male neighbor who raised the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement at his home on the evening that Australian voters approved same-sex “marriage” in 2017. Passas reportedly told Daniel Comensoli that the banner was “offensive to my culture and religion.” She told the man, who lives with a female housemate, that he should not be allowed to marry “until you could breastfeed and have children.” Passas remains an Inner West Sydney councilor, representing the Liberal party.
When police later questioned Passas, following Comensoli’s complaint, Passas told the officer that “the rainbow flag is as offensive as the flag of [Muslim terrorist group] ISIS.” Comensoli alleged that Passas said he is “disgusting.” While the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined that Passas had violated anti-discrimination law by inciting hatred, serious contempt, or severe ridicule toward homosexuals, it determined that calling Comensoli “disgusting” did not amount to “vilification” that was worthy of sanction because she did not mention homosexuality in that exchange. In Australia, vilification is found when “an ordinary member” of the public would find something offensive.
The tribunal ruled that Passas must pay Comensoli damages of A$2,500 (approximately US$1,600) and publish an apology in local newspaper Inner West Courier. Passas has vowed to appeal the ruling. Comensoli had demanded A$10,000 in compensation. He no longer lives at the complex where Passas continues to reside. Inner West Council is taking no official action against Passas, having found that she was acting as a private citizen at the time of the incident.
According to documents revealed in court, Comensoli said Passas yelled at him from her apartment balcony on the evening of November 15, 2017. Reporting that he was in his driveway after hanging the rainbow flag outside his apartment, Comensoli claimed that Passas “loudly demanded from [Comensoli] that he remove the flag because it was ‘offensive to my culture and religion’. [Comensoli] refused, to which [Passas] loudly stated words to the effect that [he] should not be afforded the right to marry ‘until you could breastfeed and have children.’”
The documents went on to note: “The exchange was loud enough that it could be heard by other residents in the complex and surrounding areas.” Days later at home, Comensoli and housemate Ashleigh DiNatale said that they heard Passas describe them to another neighbor from the driveway as “disgusting people.” Comensoli lodged a complaint with the police on the next day. When police asked Passas if she had asked Comensoli to pull down the gay flag, she denied that she had done so in an “aggressive, loud, or offensive manner.”
The tribunal heard Passas say Comensoli had “made the whole thing up” and had “turned it into a gay issue.” She asserted that their dispute was over rules regarding balconies at their apartment complex imposed by the homeowners’ association. Passas said the gay liberation banner is “against what I believe in” and is “offensive to people because of what it stands for.”
The tribunal credited Comensoli’s version of the events. Comensoli admitted that he had breached the regulations of the homeowners’ association (strata); he also published his conversation with Passas on Facebook. The tribunal opined that Passas did not have a clear recollection of the events: “She was easily inflamed when questioned about her conduct and stated in cross-examination that the concept of gay marriage was offensive to her, was offensive to her upbringing and religion, and that [Comensoli] ‘made the whole thing up because of a gay issue’, ‘turned it into a gay issue’ when ‘it was about strata’ and was ‘only continuing because of support for him from her political opponents.’”
The tribunal went on to state, “The manner in which the respondent made her demand was inappropriate and objectively likely to incite hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule of homosexual persons, and other LGBTQIA+ persons for whom the rainbow flag is an accepted symbol of identity, in an ordinary member of the general public.”