Activist's Suit Against Anti-LGTBQ Rugby Star Tossed

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday November 20, 2020

Israel Folau
Israel Folau  (Source:AP)

An LGBTQ activist's own "egregious" behavior was cited in the rejection of his attempt to take former Australian rugby star Israel Folau to an anti-discrimination board as part of a $100,000 lawsuit claim, UK newspaper the Daily Mail reports.

Burns had sent threatening messages to the board itself, as well as hurling insults at the former rugby champ, referring to him as "Falafel" and mocking his lawyer as "a limp wrist pansy" who "'carried on like a incongruous imbecile throwing Gloria Swanson tantrums," the Daily Mail article said.

The New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal rejected Garry Burns' petition on Nov. 18, "citing the 'egregious nature of his conduct,' " reported the newspaper.

"Folau had his multimillion-dollar rugby contract torn up after he shared a 'warning' to 'drunks, homosexuals and adulterers' and claimed they would go to hell," the Daily Mail recalled.

"Mr. Burns' complaint included the Instagram post, a tweet and a sermon delivered by Folau to the congregation of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church on November 17 last year," the article added.

That sermon made headlines because in it, Folau claimed that wildfires in Australia were being sent by God as punishment for the legalization of marriage equality.

The head of the tribunal, Anne Britton, agreed that Folau's anti-LGBTQ posts and the sermon "had the capacity to incite hatred towards homosexuals," the Daily Mail reported, but found that Burns' conduct was "churlish, offensive and personally insulting," and took exception to a "series of thinly veiled threats made to the president and officers of the board that if the complaint were to be dismissed Mr. Burns would publicly declare that the president was 'aiding and abetting' the unlawful vilification of homosexuals."

Britton also called Burns' motives for the suit into question, saying that "the inescapable conclusion is that one of the reasons Mr. Burns made the complaint was for the collateral purpose of securing a monetary settlement to pay the legal costs of unrelated legal proceedings."

Folau lost lucrative sponsorships and a four-year, multi-million dollar contract in 2019 by continuing to post inflammatory and offensive anti-LGBTQ messages on social media despite warnings from his team and from Rugby Australia. A bitter fight between Folau and Rugby Australia followed, with Folau and his supporters claiming that the athlete was being subjected to "anti-Christian" persecution, while Rugby Australia maintained that Folau, like every other athlete belonging to the organization, was expected to comport himself in certain ways on social media as well as on the field of play.

The two sides eventuially reached a settlement late last year.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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