LGBTQ rights groups are speaking out against Australia’s new deputy prime minister, who expressed homophobic views during his years as a newspaper editor.
Michael McCormack was chosen by the Nationals ― the junior partner in the governing Liberal-National coalition ― to take over as party leader and deputy prime minister from Barnaby Joyce. Joyce, who had been in office for less than three months, resigned Friday after confirming he’d had an affair with a former staff member, Vicky Campion, who is pregnant.
Though McCormack isn’t as high-profile as Joyce, a disturbing editorial he wrote during his time as a newspaper editor has resurfaced on social media in the wake of his accession.
The 1993 article, which McCormack wrote while serving as editor for Wagga Wagga’s Daily Advertiser, appeared to blame the “sordid behavior” of gay people for the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Needless to say, LGBTQ rights advocates in Australia and around the world quickly condemned McCormack’s words.
The Guardian points out that McCormack has apologized for the piece, which sparked several complaints to the Australian Press Council, on more than one occasion.
McCormack voted in favor of same-sex marriage in Australia last year, and has said his views on the LGBTQ community have evolved in the 25 years since he wrote the piece.
“I have grown and learned not only to tolerate but to accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique,” he said in August 2017.
Still, one of the country’s most prominent LGBTQ activists believes McCormack needs to “walk the talk” if he wants queer voters to look beyond his hateful rhetoric.
“He needs to get behind initiatives that will reduce the unacceptably high levels of LGBTI isolation, prejudice and suicide that still exist in some parts of rural Australia,” Rodney Croome, who is the spokesman for both the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group and Just.Equal, told the Australian Associated Press on Monday.
“He needs to heal the wounds caused by the kind of prejudices he publicly expressed in the past.”