Activists within the state Labor Party are confident a gay-friendly replacement will be found for outgoing Marrickville MP and deputy leader Andrew Refshauge.

Although not as vocal as independent Bligh MP Clover Moore, or his upper house party-mate Jan Burnswoods, Refshauge has been considered a strong supporter of gay and lesbian rights during his almost 22 years in politics.

He is someone who has always been very open to gay and lesbian issues, Rainbow Labor convenor Peter FitzPatrick told Sydney Star Observer.

FitzPatrick said there were other supportive ALP ministers with whom Rainbow Labor would continue to work.

There’s a number of people in the caucus who are very supportive of gay and lesbian issues, and I would be very confident that we’d get a really good candidate for that seat, he said.

We are sad to see him go, but there are lots of other people in the party who are good on our issues, and I’m sure his replacement will be very good.

Refshauge announced he was retiring from deputy leadership and state politics on Tuesday. The announcement followed speculation Refshauge would be pushed out of the deputy’s position by incoming Premier Morris Iemma following Premier Bob Carr’s resignation last week.

Representing a growing gay constituency in Marrickville, Refshauge has regularly stepped up to support the community, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said.

He was one of the first politicians to march in a Mardi Gras parade and supported bills to recognise de facto relationships in 1999, superannuation in 2000 and an equal age of consent for gay men in 2003. Refshauge also supported gay and lesbian health initiatives during his term as health minister from 1995 to 1999.

Back in 1993 he introduced the Anti-Discrimination (Homosexual Vilification) Amendment Bill on behalf of the then opposition ALP -“ picking up a private member’s bill previously introduced by Clover Moore.

It is important that I put on record my support for the gay community, Refshauge said at the time. Society must have a mature understanding of homosexuality.

Refshauge had served as state treasurer since January this year, and did not specify what he planned to do next. The Labor caucus will name the new deputy premier in the coming weeks.

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