Gay organisations have called on 2UE radio personality John Laws to publicly apologise for his offensive comments about visiting Queer Eye star Carson Kressley or risk a boycott of his businesses.
Two people have also filed complaints against Laws with the Anti-Discrimination Board, while Laws’s major sponsors have attempted to distance themselves from the incident.
An open letter to Laws demanding a public apology appears in today’s Sydney Star Observer and is signed by ACON, New Mardi Gras, Pride, Gay and Lesbian Business Association, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project.
It’s not funny that teenage gays and lesbians drop out of school because they are bullied, the letter reads. It’s not funny that gay men and lesbians are harassed in their workplace. It’s not funny when gay men and lesbians cannot walk the streets without the threat of violence.
The letter quotes the number of reported gay-hate-related assaults and murders in NSW and encourages the community to complain to 2UE and the Anti-Discrimination Board.
Stevie Clayton, CEO of ACON, believes Laws’s comments were offensive and said it doesn’t matter if they’re in print or they’re spoken, they remain offensive.
As well as an apology we want him to actually understand the force of his words and the influence they have, and that those words actually lead to discrimination and violence, Clayton said.
Laws told the Star he was not homophobic and his comments were meant to be satirical. He said he would personally apologise to anyone who felt offended by the broadcast.
He would not, however, apologise to people who had only read his comments in the newspapers as they were, he said, taken out of context.
Describing it as a very serious thing, Laws told his listeners on air last Wednesday Kressley strutting around at the Melbourne Cup made him really worried about the state of the country.
He asked, Who is this pompous little pansy prig who’s strutting around everywhere yesterday, telling Australian blokes how to wear their pocket square, as he called it? That’s poof speak for handkerchief -¦ Who is he? He might be famous in certain circles, circles being the operative word -“ we know where they are.
Laws went on to call Kressley a pillow biter who was unfit to judge women’s fashion.
I remember when Australia was a land of proud, dedicated women and hard-drinking and hard-talking men. M-E-N, men. Why this sudden proliferation of pansies I don’t know. It’s a major issue, he said, before playing a recorded sound bite that said piss off, pansy.
Laws told the SSO none of his gay friends were offended by the piece and he only received complaints after the story was picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Daily Telegraph.
It was not meant to offend anybody, he said. I haven’t had anyone ask for an apology. I’ll apologise to anybody who feels offended if they’ve heard it, not if they’ve read it. I think that’s fair enough.
If you read it cold, you would reel back. But if you hear it in the circumstances it was done, and if you know me and know my life, I’m not homophobic. I employ two homosexual couples and love them. Many of our very, very closest friends are homosexual.
The gay organisations behind the call for an apology said they would consider a boycott of Laws-owned businesses, such as Woolloomooloo restaurant Otto.
Somali Cerise, coordinator of the Anti-Violence Project, said the gay organisations would also be writing letters to Laws’s sponsors telling them these are very serious comments he’s made and you need to think quite carefully about your relationship with him.
Spokespeople from three of Laws’s sponsors, Telstra, Qantas and Toyota, told the SSO they did not endorse or agree with Laws’s comments.
Meantime, Anti-Discrimin-ation Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian confirmed he had received two complaints over the incident.
One complainant was Sydney lawyer James Thomson. The broadcast attacks gay people and incites hatred and contempt, his complaint said. The piece is discriminatory and amounts to vilification of people based on their sexual preference.