Drag queens defeated Down Under

That death throes of a dying civilisation otherwise known as ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ have suffered a landmark legal defeat in Australia.

Lyle Shelton, best known to Australians as the former Managing Director of the nation’s largest Christian advocacy group, the Australian Christian Lobby, has had all charges brought against him in his home state of Queensland dismissed.

To be clear, Shelton was not fighting in court but at a tribunal, defending himself against five sexual vilification charges brought by drag queens Johnny Valkyrie and Dwayne Hill.

In January 2020, the proudly profligate pair performed in front of 20 children aged between two and eight years old at the Brisbane City Council Library. Among other reasonably restrained critiques, Shelton labelled them “dangerous role models for children” on his blog and during a video podcast.

Valkyrie and Hill reported their hurt feelings to the Queensland Human Rights Commission, which referred their case to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Lyle Shelton is finally in the clear.


Significantly, the tribunal’s dismissal of the case hinged in large part on the question of whether drag queens constitute a “sexuality or gender identity” under Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

For the better part of a decade, the “+” suffix on the LGBTQIA+ acronym has served as a haven for deviants eager to ride the coattails of a commanding political movement. Drag queens are one of the better-known examples of this phenomenon.

So ubiquitous has Drag Queen Story Hour become — and the presence of drag queens in children’s arenas more generally — that few have thought to question the assertion.

Is “drag queen” a sexuality? Is it a gender identity? Can gaudy make-up and a flamboyant dress, worn for sexually comedic purposes, really achieve all that?


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According to Jeremy Gordon, the QCAT member overseeing Shelton’s case, the answer to these questions is a resounding no. In his 76-page decision, Mr Gordon wrote, for there to be a contravention of section 124A the incitement to hatred or serious contempt would need to be on the ground of the sexuality or gender identity of drag queens”.

He continued: On the evidence I have heard and seen, some drag queens are transgender persons and some are persons with homosexual sexual orientation, but a substantial proportion of drag queens are neither.”

Thank God for common sense.

Battles ahead

Shelton is out of the woods this time, but at least two sad facts about Australia’s hate speech laws cause him to be subdued in his celebrations.

The first is the laws’ existence at all. As many people predicted before their passage, the anti-discrimination laws passed throughout Australia’s states and territories have been wielded successfully and almost exclusively against Christians and other conservatives.

Shelton knows of at least nine other people still facing the fire, and lists them on his blog:

“Binary spokesperson Kirralie Smith, Hobart City Councillor Louise Elliot, women’s app founder Sal Grover, expelled Liberal Moira Deeming, Let Women Speak organiser Angie Jones, academic Holly Lawford-Smith, stood down children’s psychologist Dr Jillian Spencer, former Liberal candidate Katherine Deves and sacked Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor Jasmine Sussex.”

As is becoming clear in jurisdictions across the Western world, the process is the punishment. Someone like Lyle Shelton can walk free, but only at an overwhelming financial and personal price. Then the next upstanding citizen is forced to suffer the same fate.

“No Australian should ever again be dragged through a three-year legal process costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for engaging in important public debate about the welfare of children,” he said following the ordeal.

To add insult to injury, QCAT is a “no-costs jurisdiction”, meaning that even though Shelton won, his legal costs will not be reimbursed.

Fortunately, much of his legal defence was provided pro-bono by Tony Morris KC and barrister Simon Fisher, with help from the Human Rights Law Alliance. Shelton’s supporters also donated in excess of $208,000. None of this money, however, can be returned to those who helped.

By contrast, the drag queen duo was defended by the LGBTI Legal Service, which received some $400,000 in funding from Queensland taxpayers.

Therein is Shelton’s second gripe — that the system flagrantly favours the sexual insurgents. Just a sentence of wrongthink uttered, and an otherwise law-abiding citizen can have their good name sullied, their career ended, and their life savings erased.

“In a free society, debate should be met with debate, not taxpayer-funded legal action designed to silence and punish a fellow citizen,” says Shelton.

As for the result, Shelton calls it “a big win for the freedom to speak publicly and boldly” to protect children from “early sexualisation and indoctrination”.

However, he adds a caution.

“A legal battle ends, but the war is far from over.”

May his victory be the first of many more.


Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.

Image: Cartoon by Brian Doyle 

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  • peter dixon
    commented 2023-08-26 11:05:45 +1000
    we need freedom of TOLERANT BELIEF. Each belief negotiates with local community to SHARE SOME of the space for some of the time. If we want more public say, we need to TOLERATE sharing the space with what we do not like. But tolerate does NOT mean swallow.
  • Kurt Mahlburg
    published this page in The Latest 2023-08-24 15:38:10 +1000