BENJAMIN RILEY

Former deputy lord mayor and LGBTI advocate Gary Singer will run as an independent candidate for lord mayor of the City of Melbourne. His candidate for deputy is John So, son of the former lord mayor, who was also Singer’s previous running mate.

Singer, who is currently director and CEO of Sotheby’s Australia, originally ran for lord mayor in 2008 after So’s retirement, but was defeated by the Liberal’s Robert Doyle.

Speaking to the Star Observer, Singer said his involvement in the LGBTI community made him able to understand and address its needs.

“It’s very important that there are people out there who are championing the GLBTI community’s issues and concerns,” he said.

In his time as deputy lord mayor, Singer introduced a relationships register for same-sex couples, a significant achievement in 2007.

“That was the only thing the council could do to recognise relationships,” he said.

“There were more presentations on that issue than on any issue that came before council.”

Singer said his experience in this campaign has been very different to when he and John So first ran in 2004, attributing this shift to changing attitudes in the community.

“It was everywhere reported that I was gay and he was Asian, but today, no one’s saying in this campaign that I’m gay—it’s fascinating,” he said, recalling the 2004 campaign.

In the past, Singer said his experiences in politics haven’t all been positive, suggesting he encountered homophobia during his time as deputy lord mayor.

“Unfortunately you experience it more often than you’d like to remember. Sometimes it [was] not overt. Sometimes it’s behind closed doors, but it’s there,” he said.

Singer said he expected the issue would come up again if he was elected.

“I think it will, because at every official function I’ll have a partner and he’ll be male. It’ll be out there.”

Singer argues that the only way attitudes in the broader community will change is if LGBTI people are more visible.

“I think it’s very important for the gay community to be out there making it clear that we’re not hiding our sexuality, but being proud of who we are and our relationships.”

The City of Melbourne council election will take place on Saturday, October 27.

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