A Bendigo man who campaigned against same-sex marriage has apologised and claims his views have changed, as he campaigns for a seat on his local council.
Lewis Freeman-Harrison ran a Facebook page named “Vote No Australia” during the divisive 2017 postal survey. But the 25-year-old now says he no longer holds those views.
He posted a video to his campaign’s Facebook page “wholeheartedly apologising” to the LGBTIQ community for his campaigning.
“I understand there are people in this community who are still upset by my actions from 2017,” he said.
“And I take full responsibility for the views I held and the subsequent damage of my actions.
“I wholeheartedly apologise to the LGBTQIA+ community for what I did, I was wrong. I’m sorry I was ignorant.
“I’m sorry for the hurt I caused you. I am asking for the extending hand of forgiveness.”
Freeman-Harrison said his views had changed for several reasons, including dealing with his own “distortions of homosexuality.”
“I grew up in a same-sex household that was not always a pleasant environment which affected the way I perceived other people,” he said.
“After witnessing and seeing true love in the LGBTQIA+ community, I began to understand that I was wrong to try and stop someone from loving someone else.
“I grasped that if heterosexual couples had the option of deciding whether to marry or not, so should same-sex couples have the choice as to whether to seek to achieve a status and a set of entitlements and responsibilities on par with those enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
“It has been a personal journey for me, and I am thankful to my family and friends for helping me see the error of my ways.
“A leopard might not be able to change its spots. But the human species is known for its ability to adapt and change for the better.”
Freeman-Harrison told the Bendigo Advertiser that since 2017, he’d turned his back on a religious group he was previously affiliated with. He didn’t name which one.
“I am older, wiser and in a more stable position to undertake an endeavour like this,” he told the Advertiser.
Bendigo locals want ‘genuine amends’ after ‘hateful’ campaign
However local reaction to Lewis Freeman-Harrison’s apology video on his campaign Facebook page was largely negative.
One local, who was involved in the Bendigo Says Yes campaign, said the candidate’s apology “is not accepted because it has no value.”
“Until you have worked to prove you have changed, with demonstrable actions that make genuine amends with the community you demonised, then no you cannot be trusted,” they wrote.
“I worked with a team of mostly young LGBTQIA activists who maintained a fiercely positive approach despite the daily abuse that you allowed to flow unchecked on your page.
“Some were and continue to be deeply distraught by the hateful abuse and threats levelled against them by people within their hometown, abuse that you facilitated.
“The only evidence of your commitment to the mental health of Bendigo’s youth is the damage wrought through the creation and maintenance of a violently abusive page. [The page] directly negatively affected their mental health.
“That you think you deserve community regard so soon after having caused such hurt is evidence of an arrogance that is ignorant of the harm done.”
Bendigo will go to the polls for their council election on October 24.
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