News

‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word for gay slur councillor

Richelle Menzies has won a 9.5 year battle against Ron Owen for his defamatory comments. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times
Richelle Menzies has won a 9.5 year battle against Ron Owen for his defamatory comments. Photo: Greg Miller / Gympie Times Greg Miller

ONE simple word, "sorry," would have saved Richelle Menzies and Rhonda Bruce nearly 10 years of their lives.

It might have saved ex-Cooloola Shire councillor Ron Owen a lot of time too.

Mr Owen this week issued the apology he was ordered to make last month for comments he made about homosexuality in 2005.

It has been a long story, emanating from a council which no longer exists.

Cooloola Shire, since amalgamated to form Gympie Region, was the venue when Cr Owen fell into a trap, as he later claimed.

Cr Peter Cantrell asked how he could claim to champion human rights while having a bumper sticker claiming biblical support for the statement, "the only right gays have is the right to die."

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

He said: "I used words to the effect of, 'If a person chooses to partake in un-human activities, they lose their human rights'."

He published a council report, "Community Morals and Youth Protection" and a community newsletter and a website.

Ms Menzies and Ms Bruce were among complainants to the Anti-Discrimination Commission and Tribunal.

The issue went to the Supreme Court, the High Court and ultimately was re-heard in Brisbane in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Last month the tribunal found Mr Owen breached anti-discrimination laws.

Tribunal member Ann 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 him to give a private apology - "genuine, unqualified and in his own words". This week, he did.

Ms Menzies told The Gympie Times the apology, after nine-and-a-half years, was "an important victory for the dignity of a significant number of Gympie people, many of whom had been afraid to come forward because of fears of vilification or even violence from people sympathetic to Mr Owen's views".

While acknowledging Mr Owen had been ordered to make a "private" apology, Ms Menzies said she had the right to announce it.

"The Gympie lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community needs to hear this. They have a right to know even if it was private.

"They were impacted by the things he said."

Gympie Times

Topics:  discrimination, gay, gay rights, gympie, ron owen



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