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Countering Hate Speech Aotearoa

Countering Hate Speech Aotearoa (CHSA) calls on Lower Hutt Mayor Campbell Barry to cancel the Free Speech Union NZ’s booking for Graham Linehan at the Lower Hutt Events Centre on March 14, 2024.

Countering Hate Speech Aotearoa (CHSA) is a non-profit organisation formed to promote anti-hate speech legislation in Aotearoa, provide support to organisations on hate speech topics, and ensure professionals do not veer into hate speech in their professional lives. We have a focus on LGBTQIA+ issues, with a particular interest in the rights of transgender, intersex, gender diverse, gender-queer and nonbinary people.

We call upon The Mayor of Lower Hutt Campbell Barry to intervene and ask Lower Hutt Event Centre (LHEC) to cancel the NZ Free Speech Union’s (FSU) booking. The FSU has booked LHEC for a speaking tour by the former comedian Graham Linehan.

Mr. Linehan has a long history of making highly prejudicial and inflammatory statements about transgender people. He has publicly stated that his attacks on trans rights and trans individuals "cost him everything" including his familial relationships, most of his friendships, his career and saw his 'Father Ted' musical defunded. His comments are too numerous to list but can easily be found in the most perfunctory of web and twitter searches.

Additionally, the FSU is an organisation that is heavily preoccupied with transgender issues and very little actual 'free speech' material. Here are some of the actions the FSU (or people on their advisory council) have been involved with regarding trans people:

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· Defended a mortician who breached the dignity of a deceased trans person.

· Defended an IRD worker who disrespected trans people and their rights.

· Defended a woman who abused a trans supermarket worker multiple times.

· Defended SUFW, the organisation opposed to the banning of conversion therapy and trans rights in general.

· Defended 'Posie Parker' or Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshul, the woman who called for men to take guns to bathrooms and shoot trans women.

· Attacked ACC's trans-inclusive policies in the workplace that protect trans workers from harassment and discrimination.

· Defended a transphobic Christian teacher who was struck off for abusing a trans student in his care.

· Opposed the inclusion of transgender people in hate speech and human rights laws.

· Attacked the Ministry of Transport for having a rainbow-inclusive presentation.

· Supported the platforming of a Genspect conference. Genspect is a leading international anti-transgender health organisation that promotes conversion therapy.

These are just the cases that are known about in detail. There are many other anti-trans actions taken by the FSU that are less visible.

The council has a legal basis on which to ask the operator of LHEC to cancel the booking. CHSA assert that the council has a duty as the ultimate owner of the venue to not expose the employees that work there to psychosocial workplace hazards. Undoubtedly, there are LGBTQIA+ employees who staff the event centre and they should not be subjected to Mr. Linehan’s hate speech (nor should any employee). Although the LHEC is leased to a private operator the council retains ultimate responsibility to ensure that hate speech is not platformed.

Venues Ōtautahi, which is 100% owned by the Christchurch City Council, just cancelled the booking after activists made similar arguments to their executive team.

Lower Hutt City Council prides itself on being a highly inclusive organisation but it needs to ‘walk the talk’ on transgender rights and bring pressure on the venue to cancel the booking.

© Scoop Media

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