Just as Australia marks the twentieth anniversary of making it possible for gay men and women to serve openly in the military, the victims of a Facebook hate page that revealed and threatened gay members serving therein, have filed a law suit over the army’s handling of the scandal.
Australia lifted ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces in 1992. However, Stuart O’Brien, an advocate of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), told The Sunday Age that many recruits were still concerned about being open in the army.
Two years ago, five ADF personnel, including army psychologist Paul Morgan, were outed by a Facebook page, for making what it called “a filthy lifestyle decision.” It was created by former soldier Marcus Andrew Georgiou to expose serving and ex-army soldiers for being “bum bandits.”
Australian media report that the page also had links to violent and pornographic YouTube videos showing gay men being executed. Mr Georgiou, however, was acquitted of a jail sentence, after a court found him to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, following the witnessing of a fellow soldier fall to death in the Solomon Islands.
However, the army merely placed a note on the files of the 31 serving members who accessed the website, which was “less than a slap on the wrist,” John Harvey, lawyer for the victims, said. This, he added, was “symptomatic of indifference to gay hate language in the army.”
A spokesperson for the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, defended the handling of the matter, saying there was no evidence that those who accessed the page had “any” involvement with creating the material. However, she also confirmed that “a small number of allegations of assault against gay or lesbian personnel” were contained within an internal report about abuse within the ADF.
A parliamentary inquiry into whether equal marriages should be brought forth in Australia, meanwhile, continues.