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Man who defaced George Michael mural ordered to pay $14,000 by Sydney court

Written by gaytourism

George Michael mural vandalized | Photo: Pauline Pantsdown/Facebook

A 24-year-old man who defaced a George Michael mural in defence of his Christianity has been ordered to pay AU$14,000 (US$10,037) in damages.

The New South Wales Local Court sentenced Ben Gittany on Tuesday (4 September). The magistrate ordered him to pay compensation to the mural owners and to serve 300 hours of community service.

Gittany defaced the mural in November 2017, just days after Australians overwhelmingly voted to legalize same-sex marriage during a postal survey on the issue. But onlookers caught him on camera vandalizing the mural and posted the video to Facebook.

The iconic mural featured Michael as a saint, holding a bottle of poppers, a joint and wearing a crucifix earring. Artist Scott Marsh painted the mural on the side of an inner-city Sydney home in the suburb of Erskinville at the request of the homeowners. The St George mural honored the late singer after his passing in December 2016 and became an iconic Sydney landmark.

St George: Patron Saint of Parks at Night

Gittany decided to deface the mural after seeing a post on the Christian Lives Matter Facebook page. He said he was ‘defending his religion’ by painting over the mural.

Once Gittany covered the mural with black paint, other protesters descended onto Erskinville to write Christian messages over the defaced mural.

But members of the community countered that graffiti, writing messages of support like ‘love wins’ and ‘gotta have faith’.

Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman found Gittany guilty of the crime in July. In her verdict she said his religious beliefs did not justify his crime.

‘We live in a pluralistic society,’ the judge told Gittany in July.

Scott Marsh told Gay Star News the judge’s verdict was the result Sydney’s LGBTI commmunity had hoped for.

‘It’s a great result and I’m sure a huge relief for everyone in that local community,’ he said in July.

Another Sydney queer icon, the political performer, Pauline Pantsdown aka Simon Hunt, said the guilty verdict was a ‘wonderful outcome’.

‘Magistrate Carolyn Huntsman noted his actions as having been harmful to the LGBTIQ community; recognized our queer iconography as valuable; and declared art to be a tangible thing,’ Hunt said.

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