Speak Up For Women file proceedings against Auckland Council

Today, representatives from Speak Up For Women filed proceedings against the Auckland and Palmerston North Councils, following the cancellation of room bookings for public events that were to go ahead later this week. Nicolette Levy QC will be acting on the group’s behalf, with the support of the Free Speech Union.

The events were to discuss controversial sex self-identification clauses within the Births, Deaths, Marriages, Relationships, Registration Bill which is currently before Parliament. 
In Auckland, Speak Up For Women was banned from the Pioneer Women’s Hall in the CBD, because the Council thought the views likely to be expressed may cause harm to staff and other users of the facility – even if they are not physically present at the venue or event.
“We are particularly hurt by the reasoning given by Auckland Council. In effect they are saying that our views would ‘contaminate’ the venue. But feminism has a strong history of challenging comfortable views, or even official orthodoxy.” says Speak Up For Women spokesperson Beth Johnson. 
Rachel Poulain, from the Free Speech Union, says: “We believe the law is on Speak Up For Women’s side – but the practical challenge is getting to Court to force the Councils to comply. The Court of Appeal was recently clear that Councils must give due regard to freedom of speech. In the UK, a court recently ruled that gender critical views, such as those held by Speak Up For Women, are valid and deserve respect and tolerance.” 
“Our Union takes no view on gender identity or transgender issues, but we are supporting this legal action because it is an issue of freedom of speech and association. It is clear public servants are ignoring their legal duties to uphold freedom of speech and avoid political discrimination.  The irony of Auckland Council blocking a feminist group from speaking at a feminist venue is demonstrative of how little they appear to regard the rights of citizens.”
“The decision-making processes of council representatives should not be influenced by their own politics nor by a few noisy activists or the social media mob. It is clear local council are exploiting the difficulty and expense of enforcing the law, despite what the Court of Appeal has said. Councils are trying to ignore it. That’s why we’re asking New Zealanders to support us in defending democracy, by ensuring town halls respect freedom of speech.”
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.