Australia’s first and only openly gay head of state or territory, Andrew Barr, led the Labor party to victory for a sixth consecutive term in Saturday’s 2020 ACT elections. Barr said it was a “humbling experience” and thanked ACT Labor, volunteers, his family and husband.
On Saturday night as it became clear that Labor would form a government with the Greens, Barr walked hand in hand with his partner of two decades Anthony Toms to Lady Gaga’s Edge Of Glory, to deliver his acceptance speech.
During the speech, Barr acknowledged his husband Anthony, then reached over to hug him and planted a big kiss as his family and party workers cheered in an iconic moment for Australian politics.
“Finally, my husband Anthony. You are my rock. My life is so much better since we got married… We met in this city. We’ve been together, nearly 21 years and are about to have our first wedding anniversary. Anthony, I love you,” Barr declared to cheers from his supporters. Barr and Anthony had married last year in November, becoming the first head of state or territory in Australia married to a same-sex partner.
Social media users commented on the significance of the act. “It is still immensely powerful to have Andrew Barr not only acknowledge his husband but kiss him in his victory speech,” said a Twitter user.
“Our families make us, our families support us, and get us through. So thank you,” he said, adding, “To the broader Labor family, it is such an honour to lead this party in this territory.”
Barr joined the Labor party in the 1990s and was first elected to the ACT legislative Assembly in 2006, and took over as Chief Minister in 2014. He led the party to elections for the first time in 2016.
In an interview with Star Observer earlier this week, Barr spoke about the challenges that 2020 had brought from natural disasters to a global pandemic, and detailed plans for recovery as well as aims to make Canberra, the most LGBTQI friendly city in Australia.
One of the signature law reforms of his government was the law against conversion practices that was passed by the ACT Parliament in August. Conservative and religious groups had threatened Labor MLAs with negative advertising during the election campaigning if they voted for the law.
“It is a humbling experience to lead a political party and to lead a government. And, particularly in a year like this, where we’ve had an extraordinary series of challenges thrown at us as a city and as a community,” Barr said in his acceptance speech. “We have got through it because we worked together, we applied progressive values to our government decisions, we applied compassion and we haven’t left people behind.”
Barr said that jobs, health and action on climate change will guide the government’s policy.
“We said we will protect your health. We will protect your jobs. And that’s exactly what we will do during this pandemic… One very clear message from this campaign is the Canberrans voted for real action on climate change, to continue to lead our nation in implementing good public policy that creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the cost of living. They voted for us to lead on progressive reforms and to pull the rest of Australia with us. They voted for a government who will always stand up for Canberra, and one that will listen to expert advice, when it comes to handling this pandemic.”