US Ambassador to Australia John Berry has opened up on a number of LGBTI issues recently including lavishing praise on Australia’s record of LGBTI law reform, while also urging Australia not to repeat the mistakes the US has made regarding HIV.
Speaking publicly after the landmark US Supreme Court ruling granting all US citizens full marriage equality, Mr Berry who is openly gay and married to his partner Curtis Yee, was asked if he had a message for Australian lawmakers who are currently considering marriage equality legislation which has been put to the parliament.
While Mr Berry, in true diplomatic style, insisted that the issue is one Australia must decide for itself, the ambassador stated that much of the success that the LGBTI equality movement has enjoyed in the United States has stemmed from the examples set by Australia.
“For most of my life, I’ve been involved in the LGBTI community in the United States for over 25 years,” Mr Berry said. “We have looked over the horizon to Australia for our lighthouse of leadership on LGBTI, you’ve been ahead of us on gays in the military, on employment non-discrimination … this is the only time where we might be ahead for a little bit.
“We’ve used Australia as the benchmark for equality in the United States.”
Mr Berry also spoke out on LGBTI issues recently when he was a guest speaker at function at Parliament House organised by the parliamentary friendship group for LGBTI people.
Having lost a former partner to AIDS in 1996, Mr Berry used the opportunity to urge Australians to not replicate the complacency towards HIV that he says has been seen in the United States.
“(HIV) is rising again in the United States amongst our youth,” he said. “Unsafe sex practices are coming back.
“The new generation thinks ‘Oh, this is a topic that can be easily handled. It’s like catching a cold.’ It’s not. The drugs are tough and, despite amazing, amazing medical advances, it is still tough. And we need to make sure that this next generation does not repeat the mistakes of ours.
Mr Berry also used his speech to congratulate Australia’s major sporting codes who have joined together in an effort to eradicate homophobia in sport.