In the wake of the sacking of Victorian minister Adem Somyurek, activists called upon the Labor Party to reaffirm its commitment to equality and have sought a stronger response to discriminatory laws like the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.
The Victorian Premier on Monday announced that Somyurek was being sacked over allegations of branch-stacking as well his sexist and homophobic comments. Later, in the day Somyurek resigned from the Labor Party.
The investigation by The Age and Nine Network had revealed Somyurek indulging in branch-stacking – recruiting fake members to local branches to grab political power in the party. The recordings released by the media organisations had Somyurek making sexist remarks against MPs Gabrielle Williams and Marlene Kairouz and homophobic comments against young gay ministerial staff.
In the recordings, Somyurek described the gay staffers as “real little f*#*ing slimy little f*#*ers, little passive-aggressive fucking gay kids.”
Rainbow Labor Victoria, the Victorian Labor Party’s official LGBTQI action group welcomed the “swift response” by the Andrews government. “We are proud of the contribution that LGBTQI members make to our society, our party and our movement. Recent events have reminded us of the Victorian Labor values statement which declares that prejudice and discrimination – including sexism, racism and homophobia – have no place in our party.”
Community activists have however said much more needs to be done to send a clear message against such conduct.“The Victorian government’s own slogan is ‘equality is not negotiable.’ While the dismissal of Mr Somyurek sends a strong message that behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated, more should be done. The Lobby would welcome a strong condemnation of the homophobic comments as well as inclusive workplace training for MPs to understand the impact of homophobia and underscore the government’s commitment to equality,” Nevena Spirovska, co-convenor of the Victorian Gay And Lesbian Rights Lobby told Star Observer.
LGBTQI advocacy group just.equal agreed and called upon the Labor Party – both at the Federal level and in Victoria – to walk the talk. “A great way for Federal and Victorian Labor to show anti-LGBTQI sentiment has no place in its ranks, and in wider society, would be to come out more strongly against the Religious Discrimination Bill, ” said just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome in a press statement.
The federal government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will allow religious organisations and individuals to discriminate against people, including LGBTQI people, on the basis of their religious beliefs.
“The Bill allows LGBTQI people to be demeaned and discriminated against in the name of religion yet Federal Labor has been meek in its response and Victorian Labor has been virtually silent,” said Croome.
Just.equal has also asked Labor and leader of the opposition Anthony Albanese to reinstate the Equality Portfolio in his shadow ministry, “take action against all existing Australian laws that allow discrimination against LGBTQI people by religious organisations, and support for full legal recognition and protection for transgender and gender diverse people.”