A regional Victorian mayor has been called on to apologise after likening homosexuality to paedophilia in a “deeply offensive” interview after voting against his council flying a rainbow flag.
Last week, the West Wimmera Shire council in the state’s west voted down 3-2 a proposal to fly the rainbow flag for IDAHOBIT. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is recognised on May 17.
The next day, Mayor Bruce Meyer went on ABC Radio to explain the decision in an interview that has caused outrage.
He said the “particular issue” of LGBTIQ+ inclusion is “only one of a lot of moral judgements” that aren’t the role of local government to make.
“Council’s role… we’ve got roads that need fixing. We’ve got other sorts of things that have to be done, which is the expectation of local government,” he said.
“As far as making moral judgements, they are decided by law, by state and federal governments.
“Gay marriage has been legalised. There are lots of issues.
He went on, “You’ve got to equate this to — there are many people who want the Marriage Act changed so that 12-year-old girls can marry.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want any age of consent, which would virtually legalise paedophilia.”
West Wimmera Mayor Bruce Meyer on flying the rainbow flag: “You’ve got to equate this to… want[ing] the Marriage Act changed so that 12-year-old girls can marry. There are a lot of people who don’t want any age of consent, which would virtually legalise paedophilia” pic.twitter.com/MfNvju5Kl8
— Sean Mulcahy (@seanamulcahy) April 21, 2022
‘Local government has to keep its nose clean’
Mayor Bruce Meyer added there were “all these issues and they are not the issues of local government”.
He said council shouldn’t get involved in “social issues that divide the community”.
“Local government has to keep its nose clean and not be asked to be the moral judge of all these sorts of things,” he said.
“It’s not rural councils’ domain to be proclaiming the morals of its people.
“There is a pressure group that wants us to have a liaison officer and programs, and we’re supposed to take the shire flag and march in the gay pride.
“This flag is only the tip of the iceberg of what they want of us.”
LGBTIQ advocates slam ‘mind-boggling’ and ‘deeply offensive’ comments
But Meyer’s comments caused outrage and local LGBTIQ+ advocates have called on him to apologise.
Wimmera Pride Project spokesperson Patrick Quaine told ABC Radio Meyer’s comments were deeply offensive.
“It is just mind-boggling to hear, in this day and age, an elected leader like the Mayor conflate LGBTQI+ inclusion with paedophilia,” he said.
“It is so deeply offensive.
“For a local mayor to say this, it just signals to young gay and trans kids that you’re not welcome in this community.
“[It tells them] you need to go somewhere else to find somewhere that you are welcome.”
Quaine said in the region, which has a population of around 3,800, the “vast majority” of residents were accepting.
But he and his partner had suffered verbal abuse for holding hands in public “multiple times”.
He said West Wimmera Shire was the only council in the region that didn’t recognise IDAHOBIT last year.
He said flying the flag was the least councils could do to show support for their LGBTQI+ constituents.
“Flying the flag is not a moral judgement,” he said.
“It’s the bare minimum a council can to do allow their queer community to understand that they are welcome here.”
The Wimmera Pride Project are currently calling on people who live in the West Wimmera Shire Council area to contact Mayor Bruce Meyer and let him know they don’t support the recent comments he made about the LGBTIQ+ community.
More details: https://t.co/vWOGVPER9j
— Victorian Pride Lobby (@VicPrideLobby) April 25, 2022
Council told flying rainbow flag could prevent suicides
Victoria Pride Lobby policy advisor Sean Mulcahy said Meyer’s interview linking homosexuality to paedophilia was “shocking and deeply upsetting”.
“I think Mayor Meyer needs to come out and apologise publicly. He needs to do that now,” Mulcahy said.
“It just goes back to the kind of taunting that many of us experienced when we were younger.
“LGBTIQA+ people, including those that live and work in West Wimmera, just want to go about and live our lives.”
During the council meeting, the mayor’s own son Tim Meyer backed the motion to fly the flag.
He told the meeting there had been a suicide in the community last year.
Meyer said if flying the flag on IDAHOBIT could help prevent another tragedy, the council should.
Councillor Trevor Domaschenz agreed, and said the move is “just about everyone feeling welcome in the community.”
“If I can prevent one or two suicides … in the West Wimmera Shire, I’m quite happy to support the motion,” he said.
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