Around 100 members and supporters of Sydney’s queer community gathered at Town Hall at noon for a snap action for LGBTI rights and to protest the new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet. The rally called attention to Perrottet’s hard-right religious views and troubling track record on queer rights issues.
The rally was chaired by Community Action for Rainbow Rights convenors April Holcombe and Patrick Wright. They reflected on the role CARR has played in campaigning for queer rights in Sydney over the last 20 years, pointing to the organisation’s centrality in the campaign for marriage equality and emphasising the need to defend the LGBTI community against ongoing political attacks.
Speakers at the rally discussed the harm that would be caused by Perrottet’s queerphobic politics. The speaking list noticeably lacked representation of queer people of colour.
Sylvie Ellsmore, a Greens candidate for Sydney City Council, expressed relief that activists can once again protest in person. She said it was “hard to watch” increasing conservatism in positions of power while “stuck at home” during lockdown. On the ascent of Perrottet to Premiership, she suggested NSW is seeing “the escalation of someone from the religious right into a position that’s meant to represent all of us.” Ellsmore also stressed the need for the LGBTI movement to “hold the line” to prevent conservatives from eroding hard won rights for the community.
Wright reflected on the political significance of Perrottet, drawing parallels with the “crank, deranged… social conservative agenda” of Tony Abbott. Wright pointed to Perrottet’s long-term membership of the hard-right faction of the Liberal Party as reflecting his deep social conservatism, arguing that attempts to portray Perrottet as moderate make him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Alex King, an activist at Macquarie University, drew connections between the homophobic rhetoric of Perrottet and the silencing of queer activists by the Macquarie University SRC, which has banned discussion of a motion against religious discrimination. The Young Liberals “subscribe to the same politics as Perrottet,” she said.
April Holcombe closed the speeches by emphasising the need to fight legislation to allow religious discrimination against people on the basis of gender and sexuality. She pointed to the potential of the religious discrimination bill to result in denial of medical care to queer individuals and the sacking of queer teachers from schools.
The rally, surrounded by a disproportionate police presence, marched to Martin Place with chants of “No bigotry, no way, we’re going to fight you Perrottet” and “We will fight, we will win, chuck the bigots in the bin.” At Martin Place, Holcombe and Wright reinforced the need to keep the pressure up on politicians to protect LGBTI rights.