Joint media release issued by the Free Speech Union and Speak Up for Women
Today, Justice Gerald Nation granted Speak UP for Women interim relief against Palmerston North City Council, meaning their meeting to discuss the controversial sex self-identification clauses within the Births, Death, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill will go ahead tonight in the Palmerston North Central Library at 6:30pm as planned.
In handing down the decision, Justice Nation noted: "Having considered the evidence and submissions of counsel, the Court grants the applicant the relief sought and makes an order that the licence to occupy created by the agreement to hire the mezzanine meeting space at the Palmerston North City Library between 6.30 pm and 8.00 pm on 25 June 2021 continues in force. Reasons will follow in due course."
Speak Up For Women had also issued proceedings seeking an order that Auckland Council allow a booking for the Ellen Melville Centre on Sunday to proceed, for a similar meeting to be held. During the legal proceedings, it was disclosed by Auckland Council that they had identified a unique critical risk with the event proceeding at that location. Given this risk, Speak Up For Women agreed to the offer of a new location, and Auckland Council agreed to make a Public Statement which will be released before 5 PM today.
The event in Auckland will now be held in a room within the Council owned Town Hall complex at the original time and date of 6:30pm on Sunday 27 June.
"This case was important as it vindicates our group - believing that biological sex matters and should not be replaced by the idea of ‘gender identity’ in law is worthy of respect in a democratic society, and so entitled to protection under the right to freedom of expression" says Beth Johnson, spokeswoman for Speak Up For Women.
In the hearing, counsel for both Auckland and Palmerston North City Councils acknowledged that it was neither Councils’ position that the case was about "hate speech".
Rachel Poulain from Free Speech Union says "we’re delighted by this result - it’s a win for free speech in New Zealand, at least when it comes to Councils trying to deplatform views or groups they don’t like."
Ms Johnson says: "As we are a grass-roots women’s group made up of volunteers, our funding comes solely from small donations. With the help of the Free Speech Union, we are crowdfunding to cover our legal costs. We hope to find support beyond feminist circles from New Zealanders who value freedom of speech as we do and who share our concerns about censorious public officials bowing to pressure from activists.
New Zealanders who wish to support this effort to stand for free speech are encouraged to donate to the litigation fund at www.fsu.nz/speak_up or to 06-0323-0706649-01. Donations to the fund will remain confidential to Speak Up for Women and the Free Speech Union.
UPDATE: The Judge’s reasons have now been issued and available to read here.