Controversial former deputy mayor of the Inner West Council Julie Passas, who was found to have homosexually vilified her gay neighbour, has failed in her re-election bid. 

Passas, a councillor for over two decades, was disendorsed by the Liberal Party before the elections, following a successful campaign by community groups. She had stood then as an independent. 

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“Following our successful campaign this year to have Julie Passas disendorsed by the Liberal Party, our team is very pleased that Ms Passas has not been re-elected & will not serve on the next Council,” said Darcy Byrne, who looks set to return as Inner West Council mayor. 

Passas Compared Rainbow Flag To The ISIS Flag

Daniel Comensoli with a rainbow flag on his balcony. Picture: supplied

In 2019, Passas was found guilty of “unlawful homosexual vilification”, and ordered to pay $2,500 in compensation to her gay neighbour. 

The case related to an incident on November 15, 2017, when Passas objected to her neighbour Daniel Comensoli hanging a rainbow flag in the Ashfield town house complex where they both lived. Comensoli had hung the flag to celebrate Australia’s national vote in favour of same-sex marriages. 

Passas, who was then the deputy mayor, asked Comensoli to remove the flag, which she claimed was “offensive to [her] culture and religion” and that he should not have the right to marry until he “could breastfeed and have children.”

When police visited Passas’ home based on a complaint by Comensoli, she was overheard telling officers that  “the rainbow flag was as offensive as the flag of ISIS.”

In his complaint to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Comensoli said that Passas continued to harass him and lobbied with other residents to have him and his housemate evicted. 

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The tribunal in 2019 held that the complaint of “unlawful homosexual vilification” had been substantiated and ordered Passas to pay Comensoli $2,500 in compensation. Passas lost her appeal against the order and was forced to issue an apology

A Passas-Free Inner West Council

“Julie Passas, and her draconian views, will be gone from the Inner West Council,” Jack Whitney, a Labor candidate at the Inner West Council elections and Co-Convenor of NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, told Star Observer

The Lobby had protested against Passas’ homophobic actions and views on the council. “Passas’ draconian comments came to light during her time as Deputy Mayor. As soon as they were aired, the community campaigned specifically against her from being re-elected. This also included advocating for her to be disendorsed by the Liberal party,” said Whitney.

“As such, at the 2021 local council elections in NSW saw the people of the Inner West vote for an inclusive council that celebrates diversity. The Inner West will continue to be just that place.”

A “Passas-free Inner West Council”, according to Whitney, can focus on issues of importance to the community, including “progressing the Pride Centre and ensuring the local community is well prepared for World Pride in Sydney in 2023.” 

An Inclusive Inner West Council

“We can showcase the great and inclusive community of the Inner West on the world stage. We will need to ensure local businesses and venues are well prepared for the influx of tourism and the LGBTQI related festival,” said Whitney. 

“On a local level, discrimination and vilification is still an issue that needs to be addressed through more inclusion and accessibility programs,” said Whitney, adding, “On a broader scale, there’s a number of reforms that are required within NSW to improve outcomes for the LGBTQI community, including, reviewing the Anti-Discrimination Act, removing the ban on gay men on donating blood, ensuring Trans and Gender Diverse students and young people are not further discriminated against in our schools.”

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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