Israel Folau’s legal battles may not be over just yet after the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW accepted a complaint from a gay rights activist who has accused the former rugby star of “homosexuality vilification”.
Campaigner Garry Burns wrote to the board’s president in early December complaining about Folau’s infamous April Instagram post in which he warned hell awaits homosexuals.
Mr Burns also complained about the rugby player’s comments seen in a video sermon linking severe droughts and unprecedented bushfires to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in late 2017.
He wrote that Folau’s statements were “objectively capable of incitement of contempt and or hatred of homosexual persons on the ground of their homosexuality”.
The anti-discrimination board on Friday informed Mr Burns his complaint had been accepted under the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act.
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“Mark my words, Mr Folau is about to cop a dose of third-degree Burns,” Mr Burns said in a statement.
Once a complaint is accepted it normally goes to conciliation. If that fails to resolve the matter it can be referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a legal decision.
Mr Burns in 2013 and 2014 had success at NCAT when the tribunal found a former Katter Party candidate had vilified homosexuals and ordered she publicly apologise.
But when Tess Corbett, a Victorian, didn’t retract her comments he couldn’t enforce the ruling because she wasn’t a NSW resident.
Mr Burns has set up a GoFundMe page to fight against the Sydney-based Folau.
Former leader of the Australian Labor Party Mark Latham believed the decision to accept the complaint sent a “chilling” precedent for all “religious preachers”.
In a lengthy spiel, Latham detailed how the ruling set a dangerous mark for the NSW Tribunal in relation to free speech.
“NSW Anti-Discrimination Board decision to persecute Israel Folau is chilling for all religious preachers/freedoms,” Latham tweeted.
“Section 49ZT of the Act has an exemption from ‘Homosexual vilification’ action for ‘religious instruction’, discussion, debate and ‘expositions of any act or matter’.
“The s49ZT exemption does not apply to Folau, apparently, meaning that an unelected NSW Govt tribunal is now in the business of re-interpreting The Bible in the case of a religious preacher.
The popularity of Siya Kolisi since leading South Africa to World Cup glory in Yokohama knows no bounds https://t.co/cAJapkmuXb
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 13, 2019
“Mark Speakman must step in now and clean out the Anti-Discrim Board.
“During the SSM debate, we were told repeatedly no one would lose their freedom of speech to criticise gay marriage. This was a lie.
“Folau has been dragged before a NSW tribunal for his belief that God disapproves of SSM laws.”
Folau and Rugby Australia 10 days ago settled their dispute over the sacking of the former Wallaby due to his controversial social media posts.
The two sides announced a confidential settlement had been reached after mediation ordered by the Federal Circuit Court.
Is there still the possibility of Israel Folau one day returning to rugby union in Australia?
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