A PROMINENT human rights campaigner has called for Australian religious leaders and politicians who stand in the way of LGBTI issues, such as same sex marriage, to be outed if sufficient evidence exists of their homosexuality.

Australian-born activist Peter Tatchell, who is based in the UK, made the comments in an exclusive interview with the Star Observer magazine in which he also discussed how his upbringing in Melbourne during the Vietnam War shaped his political activism, the violence his stepfather meted out to him and his views on the progress of LGBTI rights.

After leaving Australia at the age of 19, Tatchell went onto become one of the most high-profile — and controversial figures — in the gay rights movement.

His prominence was chiefly due to the use of headline-grabbing tactics, including a citizens arrest of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and invading the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral during an Easter service to protest at the Anglican Church’s stance on homosexuality.

In July, Tatchell threatened to recommence one of his most famous campaign methods – that of outing closeted public figures who stand in the way of LGBTI rights – following the Church of England’s opposition to gay clergy marrying.

It’s a tactic Tatchell says Australian campaigners should take up.

“If prominent people in public life misuse their power and influence to harm other gay people I think outing is ethically justified,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s queer self-defence. We’re not attacking them because they’re in the closet, it’s because they’re hypocrites and homophobes.”

However, he was circumspect as to the overall political success of outing bishops: “Certainly in Britain the outing campaign did not directly change church policy or stop homophobia from clerics but it definitely did reduce it.”

Tatchell said it was it was “hugely disappointing,” to see a country like Australia “with a very proud and long radical tradition” dragging its feet on same-sex marriage.

The campaigner, who has stood for election to the UK Labour and Green parties in the past, lays much of the blame at the feet of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who he calls a “homophobe” that should be “embarrassed at every turn”.

“I think to myself, why are Australian LGBTIs and their straight allies putting up with it? Why are they allowing him to get away with it?” he said.

Australian Marriage Equality, national director Rodney Croome disagreed with Tatchell’s assessment of local campaigns: “It [direct action] has worked, many times. It’s just not as widely acknowledged because it’s not associated with the charisma of a figure like Peter.”

Croome said he was not in favour of outing public figures, regardless of their stance on LGBTI issues.

“But I admire Peter’s immense bravery in confronting the haters directly,” he said.

More on Peter Tatchell can be found in October’s Star Observer magazine available from tomorrow (Thursday, September 18) at selected venues and online at starobserver.com.au

(Main photo: Peter Tatchell at his London home Photo: Benedict Brook; Star Observer)

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