LGBTI campaigner speaks out in support of Dubbo gay community

By KIM BARTLEY June 20, 2015,  – thedailyliberal.com.augaryburns6

Prominent anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns hit the phone after reading about Nicholas Steepe’s struggle to speak to Dubbo city Councillors.

Prominent anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns hit the phone after reading about Nicholas Steepe’s struggle to speak to Dubbo city Councillors. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

A HIGH-PROFILE anti-discrimination campaigner has told Dubbo politicians to show the city’s young gay and lesbian residents that they are “welcome” in their home town.

Sydney-based Garry Burns hit the phone on Friday morning after reading of student Nicholas Steepe’s battle to speak with each and every Dubbo city Councillor about marriage equality, a linchpin of “social inclusion”.

Mr Burns rang the offices of Dubbo City Council and Parkes MP Mark Coulton before sending an email to his own representative in the Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, asking him to nudge Mr Coulton who is currently against same-sex marriage.

The openly homosexual man, who makes “no apologies for going after people in the public eye who promote homophobia”, is reminding Dubbo’s political leaders of their responsibility to promote “diversity, inclusivity, tolerance and understanding”.

“I was touched by this story and I felt really sad that in 2015 we have still got young gay and lesbian people being denied inclusivity,” Mr Burns said.

“They just want to be treated like they are part of the Australian family.

“They look to Councillors, they look to politicians, to give them that support.

“It is important that these councillors…sit down with this young man and the gay and lesbian youth of Dubbo and say ‘you are welcome here’.”

Mr Steepe sought talks with individual Councillors on behalf of Dubbo’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community.

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When five of 11 councillors ignored his invitation, Mr Steepe applied to speak to the council as a whole at one of its June meetings.

On Wednesday he was notified that he could address the council at its monthly meeting on June 29, an arrangement changed by the council a day later.

Mr Steepe and Dubbo mother Libby McMahon will now address the council in an open forum at committee meetings on Monday, June 22, which suits them better.

“I believe that’s quite a positive step because it will allow for debate,” he said.

The LGBTI community and its “straight allies” have been asking the council to join a national and community-driven campaign aimed at influencing federal politicians to reform the 1961 Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage.

About 40 councils in Australia, including Coonamble and Lachlan shire councils, have joined big business, entertainment royalty, politicians and families in trying to bring about change.

Mr Burns, famous for rows with John Laws and Jeff Kennett, applauds Mr Steepe’s effort to engage the council on the issue, even though it will come down to the votes of federal politicians.

“Every Australian should be involved in the promotion of inclusivity, especially those elected to high office,” said the Moree-raised activist.

“If all people are talking openly about a need for legislative change, the Commonwealth government will go ‘I got it’.”

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