A former deputy mayor has been found guilty of sexuality vilification after a dispute over a rainbow flag.
During nasty heated arguments with her neighbour, the woman described the flag “as offensive as the flag of ISIS”.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ordered Julie Passas, a Liberal Councillor of Sydney’s Inner West Council, to pay $2,500 and publish an apology.
The flag dispute happened on November 15, 2017 – the same day as the announcement of the marriage equality vote.
Passas’ neighbour Daniel Comensoli draped a rainbow flag from his balcony in celebration of the overwhelming “yes” vote.
The councillor subsequently demanded Comensoli remove the flag, describing it as offensive to her culture and religion.
She also told Comensoli he did not have the right to marry until he can breastfeed and have children.
Comensoli told NCAT Passas continued to harass and yell at him and his flat mate.
Later, she told another neighbour in the complex to tell the apartment’s owners their tenants are “disgusting people”.
He also said Passas tried to lobby others in the building to evict him and his housemate.
Later, Passas told police: “The rainbow flag is as offensive as the flag of ISIS”.
Turning it into ‘a gay issue’
Passas argued in the tribunal that the dispute centred on strata rules regarding hanging items off balconies.
She accused Comensoli of turning it “into a gay issue”.
She denied telling police the rainbow flag is similar to the ISIS flag, however, she did admit referring to it as “an analogy”.
Under cross examination, Passas said the rainbow flag is “against what I believe in” and is also “offensive to people because of what it stands for”.
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Complaint of vilification substantiated
On Monday NCAT found the complaint of “unlawful homosexual vilification” had been substantiated.
The tribunal subsequently ordered Passas to pay $2,500 compensation to her neighbour.
It also ordered her to publish an apology in the local Inner West Courier newspaper which includes the wording that on:
“the day of the historic ‘Yes vote’ … I publicly yelled abuse at Mr Comensoli, which has been determined by the NSW Civil and Administration Tribunal to amount to homosexual vilification”.
Passas still remains with the council.
She served as deputy mayor from September 2017 to September 2018.
Comensoli has since moved out of the apartment.
Vilification is ugly
Meanwhile, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said vilification is ugly.
“Unlawful vilification is inciting hatred or ridicule towards a person, or group of people, based on an attribute like their sexual orientation,” he said.
“It is extraordinary that Ms Passas is offended by a symbol of equality and freedom and acceptance.
“Let’s hope she thinks twice before spewing her hatred towards other people in future following the tribunal’s ruling.”
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