Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ADF appeals order in homophobia case

The Australian Defence Force is appealing an order of the Federal Court directing the military to reinstate an Army Reserve major who made homophobic comments online. It's another illustration of the intersection of technology, free speech and military discipline. The circumstances are described here. Excerpt:
Bernard Gaynor was fired as a Defence Force major in December 2013 for making a string of "offensive and divisive" public statements about gay and transgender people, as well as adherents of Islam. 
"I wouldn't let a gay person teach my children and I'm not afraid to say it," Gaynor tweeted in January 2013. 
Later, he berated the ADF in a series of press releases for allowing its officers to wear their uniforms at Mardi Gras. 
He also engaged in a social media stoush with high-profile transgender Army officer Cate McGregor, and spoke out against the alleged violent threat Islam posed to Australia. 
The ADF sacked Gaynor after deeming his comments jarred with military rules, breaking a ban on posting material offensive towards any group based on personal attributes. 
However, a Federal Court judge this month found Gaynor's comments were made in a personal capacity and protected by the freedom of political communication, ordering his sacking be set aside.
The decision in Gaynor v. Chief of the Defence Force (No. 3), [2015] FCA 1370, can be found here. A subsequent order as to costs appears here.

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