The gay community had lost one of its strongest and most effective advocates in NSW, with the resignation of John Brogden (pictured), former Liberal senator Chris Puplick said yesterday.
I think it just means that the gay and lesbian community finds itself with very few friends in Macquarie Street, Puplick, a former president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, told Sydney Star Observer.
Brogden resigned as Liberal leader this week over a drunken evening during which he propositioned a female journalist and referred to former premier Bob Carr’s wife Helena as a mail-order bride. He is currently recovering from an apparent suicide attempt on Tuesday night.
In 2000 Brogden bucked traditional Liberal thinking by calling for an equal age of consent for gay men, before voting to make the reform law in 2003.
More recently he sent a message of support to a Sea of Hearts event organised to mark the first anniversary of the federal same-sex marriage ban earlier this month.
Â In the last four years that he has been leader, John Brogden has consistently made statements supportive of gay and lesbian rights, said David Scamell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, which helped organise the Sea of Hearts event.
However, Brogden has also spoken out against government support of leading gay and lesbian events. In an interview with the Star in 2002, the same year he became opposition leader, Brogden criticised the Labor government’s in-kind support of the Sydney’s 2002 Gay Games.
He also said he would not have lent financial support to Mardi Gras were he premier when the organisation collapsed that year.
Yet support for gay and lesbian law reform is considerably less likely from conservative Vaucluse MP Peter Debnam, the man expected to be elected state opposition leader this week, according to Puplick.
Debnam, who voted against the equal age of consent two years ago, is set to become leader after contender Barry O’Farrell withdrew his candidature yesterday.
Debnam’s probable ascension coincides with the growing influence of right-wing religious elements in the state party and, according to Puplick, would likely sideline opposition support for LGBT issues.
I would expect almost nothing progressive and certainly nothing that will advance the rights of the gay and lesbian community, Puplick said.
Scamell said the Rights Lobby would encourage Debnam to pursue reform if he were elected, but conceded, The fact that he voted against the [equal] age of consent obviously shows [his] views aren’t as progressive on these issues as John Brogden’s.
Earlier this week, Brogden accused right-wing elements in his party of spreading stories about the drunken behaviour over which he quit.
Brogden said Alex Hawke, the Young Liberals national president and staffer of conservative state Liberal MP David Clarke, was a source of the stories -“ a claim Hawke refuted, The Australian reported.
In May Hawke met with a rebuke from Brogden after criticising moderate NSW Liberals and calling for a re-examination of issues including the equal age of consent for gay men.
Hawke’s comments came in the same month right-wing elements gained a majority on the state Liberal party’s executive, which influences party pre-selection.
Gay Liberal City of Sydney councillor Shayne Mallard said at the time the emphasis on issues such as the gay age of consent was alarming.
But this week Mallard said it was unlikely the new state Liberal leadership would seek to reverse past reforms.
I don’t think people should be alarmed that Peter is going to wind back any achievements that have been achieved for the [gay and lesbian] community in the past, he said.