NSW Premier Mike Baird has said he was “personally very distressed” at the fallout from the controversy surrounding LGBTI parenting documentary Gayby Baby and has conceded that some rainbow families may have felt wronged by the media coverage and a subsequent government edict to schools restricting when the film could be shown.
Baird has been under pressure on the issue – including from members of his own party – since his Education Minister Adrian Piccoli announced last week that Gayby Baby would only be permitted to be shown in state schools outside of study time or in classes where anti-bullying was part of the curriculum.
[showads ad=MREC]Piccoli’s pronouncement followed media coverage which criticised Burwood Girls High School, in inner-west Sydney, which planned to show the film to all students during the school day last Friday.
Upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe questioned Baird during a budget estimates meeting in state parliament this afternoon.
Sharpe, who is openly gay and a parent of three children, asked Baird to respond to a letter she had received from a mother which said the government’s actions around Gayby Baby had sent a tacit message that LGBTI families were “deviant” and “worthless”.
“I say to her, I’m incredibly sorry,” Baird said.
“She’s evoking real emotions of pain that obviously I wish she didn’t have.
“Personally, I was very distressed by the way this played out [and] the last thing I want is the message alluded to.
“We are all valued and we should all be accepted and that’s the message you will get from me.”
Commenting on the controversy last week, Baird said: “I think tolerance is a good thing. But I think there should be some parameters around it.”
Soon after, Labor premiers in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia came out in support of the film.
Asked by Sharpe if he believed in tolerance or acceptance of all families, Baird replied: “It’s complete acceptance, that is my position full stop.”
The premier said he backed his education minister’s position on the film and insisted Gayby Baby was restricted in schools not because of its content but because students should be focusing on upcoming exams in class hours.
Baird also revealed he had now seen the documentary.
When Sharpe enquired if he thought Gayby Baby was nothing more than a “very innocent film”, he said “I’d accept there are some very good lessons in there”.
Earlier this week, Leichhardt federal Coalition MP Warren Enstch – who introduced a cross-party marriage equality bill in Federal Parliament last month – said if Gayby Baby was to be restricted in schools, “pro-heterosexual parenting films should also be prohibited”.
While speaking in the NSW Parliament last week, upper house Liberal MP Shayne Mallard took a swipe at his own party by saying Gayby Baby was no more controversial than Rabbit Proof Fence or To Kill a Mockingbird, both of which were part of the English curriculum.
“What we have seen is a taste of the prejudice and ignorance that the LGBTI community, its members and families, deal with each and every day of their lives,” he said.[showads ad=FOOT]