Australian senator sues opposing lawmaker over sexual slur

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

(CNN)A sexist remark hurled across Australia's Senate chamber by a male politician at a female lawmaker has now made its way into the courts, after Senator Sarah Hanson-Young filed a defamation suit against David Leyonhjelm, the man who has refused to apologize for insulting her.

"The defamatory statements Senator Leyonhjelm made and continues to make are an attack on my character," Hanson-Young said in a statement after filing the suit on Thursday. "I'm calling this out because it is wrong. No woman, whether she be working behind a bar, in an office or in the Parliament, deserves to be treated this way, and it needs to stop."
It has been more than a month since Leyonhjelm, a libertarian politician told the Green Party's Hanson-Young to "stop shagging men" during a Senate debate on ways to prevent violence against women.
    He refused to back down from the comment, conducting several interviews on national television and radio, and pushed back at the female lawmaker. He accused her of "misandry," which he said was the opposite of "misogyny" and was directed at men.
    The feud brought into focus a national argument about the traditional masculinity in Australian politics.

    Crowdfunding on both sides

    Leyonhjelm has long fought against what he has termed political correctness and his political party, the Liberal Democrats, have joined in to help him fight this battle against Hanson-Young.
    The party, of which Leyonhjelm is the sole elected representative in either house of Australia's national parliament, has turned the lawsuit into a political contest and urged supporters to contribute to a 'war chest' to take on the environmentally-focused Greens and their "toxic unhinged ideology."
    Hanson-Young's crowdfunding campaign has raised a little over $44,000 (60,000 AUD) while Leyonhjelm's has brought in $20,000 (27,000 AUD).
    Hanson-Young said the lawsuit was dedicated to young women facing harassment in the workplace.

    A political strategy

    "For those who have called on me to use polite language with my work colleagues and treat them with respect, rest assured that I do," Leyonhjelm wrote in a piece for Australia's Sydney Morning Herald. "But let me be clear: Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is not my work colleague; she is my opponent. We strive for opposing things. If I can inhibit her from achieving her political goals I will."
    Senator David Leyonhjelm.
    Not everyone is applauding his refusal to back down.
    Rather, it appears that some of the media outlets who gave Leyonhjelm an overly generous platform last month are expressing remorse.
    "We took him to task on his comments about Senator Hanson-Young, which we felt were inappropriate and an unnecessary reference to Senator Hanson-Young's personal life," Melbourne talk station 3AW said in a statement posted on Hanson-Young's media page.
    "We think [Leyonhjelm's behavior] is unbecoming and not in keeping with parliamentary standards. We let Senator Leyonhjelm go too far in that interview, and for that we apologize to Senator Hanson-Young."
    They echo the country's political leaders, who had already called on him to apologize.
    "It was clearly offensive, it should have been withdrawn and apologized for. It's not too late for him to do so now," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told CNN affiliate 9News in early July.
    "All of us I suppose get carried away but when you make a mistake, fix it," former Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a Sydney radio station. "People should be better than that."

    Fighting for women

      Hanson-Young has pledged to donate any funds awarded in the lawsuit to women's empowerment organizations.
      "While the Federal Court cannot compel Senator Leyonhjelm to apologize, it does have the power to award damages in my favor which I pledge to donate to two very worthy organizations," she said in Thursday's statement, describing groups that work on gender equality and advocacy services for women.