Writer and former military officer Catherine McGregor has said she can forgive Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for his historical comments against gay people.

Appearing on ABC’s Q&A this week, McGregor said she could forgive the comments given that he has apologised for them.

An audience member asked whether the panel considered McCormack’s promotion to deputy prime minister was wise in light of his past comments.

McCormack wrote a newspaper column in 1993 that blamed gay people for AIDS, calling them “sordid” and “unnatural”.

“In his defence—I’m not going to defend that sentiment—but it was a much more prevalent sentiment then,” said McGregor.

“We’re in a different country now. I can forgive him for those remarks if he’s withdrawn them and stepped away from them.

“And I wouldn’t like to be reminded of everything I said or did 25, 30 years ago.”

Shadow Minister for Justice Clare O’Neil agreed McCormack’s remarks were “terrible”.

“He shouldn’t have said those things,” she said.

Harriet Harman, British Labour MP, said McCormack will need to do more than say he has moved on from holding homophobic views.

“There is still a lot of homophobia and discrimination against gay people. And I think coming out for many people is still a very traumatic thing,” said Harman.

“I can only imagine the kind of chill that people must have shivered down their spine, that many people must have felt when they heard these remarks, and that they came from somebody who is now the Deputy Prime Minister.

“They were a while ago, but he will have a lot to prove that actually he has left that discrimination behind.

“Perhaps we’ll have to see him on a gay pride march, leading it—really showing that he has changed.

“He’ll have to prove he can do the job as well as proving that he’s left behind those repulsive, homophobic views.”

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