April 03, 2009
A HOMOSEXUAL couple has won a landmark anti-vilification case against former Brisbane neighbours who had publicly abused them, calling them “faggots” “poofs” and “girls”.
Tim Wilson and his partner, Shane McCollum, are rebuilding their lives after the Supreme Court of Appeal in Queensland threw out their former neighbour Jean Lawson’s last-ditch legal appeal against paying the men $23,000 in compensation for the abuse.
The case has set a legal precedent for gay rights, and Mr Wilson, 45, told The Australian yesterday it was a huge step forward for human rights. “We made history. We didn’t start out to do that. That wasn’t the intention,” Mr Wilson said.
Last year, Ms Lawson, aged in her 60s, and her son Paul, in his 30s, were ordered to pay the compensation after a bitter, long-running neighbourhood dispute in the outer Brisbane suburb of Logan Central, which was sparked by Ms Lawson’s barking dog.
They were also ordered to publish an apology to Mr Wilson and Mr McCollum, 39, in state and local newspapers.
The decision by Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal found Ms Lawson and her son had publicly vilified and harassed the couple over their sexuality.
Lawyers have said it is the first case to deal with vilification and sexual harassment in a neighbourhood dispute.
Trouble began in Leichhardt St, Logan Central, in south suburban Brisbane in 2005 over Ms Lawson’s barking dog.
Mr Wilson, a nurse, complained the dog was interrupting his sleep and the dispute escalated with name-calling in the street and Mr Wilson being accused and arrested for assaulting the Lawsons and breaching bail conditions. The charges were later dropped.
After nine months of feuding, Mr Wilson and Mr McCollum left their rented house.
The tribunal accepted Mr Wilson’s evidence that the couple suffered “worry, stress, humiliation, anguish and many sleepless nights” while living at Logan Central because of harassment by the Lawsons.