A former state premier who has made homophobic statements in the past has been invited to join the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade following a change in his views.
Jeff Kennett, who served as Liberal Premier of Victoria from 1992 to 1999, is now chairman of beyondblue, Australia’s national anti-depression initiative, who are sponsoring Sydney’s Mardi Gras in February 2013.
Last year Kennett said ‘happy heterosexual marriages are the best environment for the mental health of children’, but this May, he announced in a piece in the Herald Sun that he had changed his mind and supports gay marriage.
‘I changed my view because of the way discrimination against so many in the gay and lesbian community has caused so much stress, anxiety, depression and suicide,’ Kennett wrote.
Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson said to Sydney Morning Herald:
‘I think it's a real sign of leadership when somebody can acknowledge that they can change their position. He’s probably the highest-ranked [former] Liberal politician that has shown such strong advocacy for our community and I really feel as though Jeff is coming from a very genuine position and this isn't some orchestrated campaign that he doesn't believe in.’
Kennett offered to replace Prime Minister Julia Gillard as speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL)’s national conference after she dropped out following controversial comments from ACL head Jim Wallace last month.
Wallace turned down Kennett’s offer however, describing him as ‘a man who compromised his principles in the face of the aggressive gay activist campaign against him’.
Last month beyondblue launched a $1.5 million (Australian dollars, $1.55 million, €1.21 million) anti-discrimination campaign, in which it compares discrimination towards LGBTI people with discrimination towards left-handed people.
Watch an TV advert in beyondblue campaign here: