Current Affairs

Australian gay bar wins right to ban lesbians and straight men

Amy Bourke May 29, 2007
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The Scottish owner of a gay bar in Australia has won the right to ban lesbians and heterosexual men from its premises.

A tribunal made the historic ruling after hotelier Tom McFeely argued that women and straight men posed a physical threat to his guests in Peel Hotel, Melbourne.

The Victoria tribunal said: “Sometimes heterosexual groups and lesbian groups insult and deride and are even physically violent towards the gay male patrons. In doing these things, they use sexually-based insults.

“Sometimes, groups seek to use the venue for parties and it is clear from Mr McFeely’s affidavit that these groups wish to look at the behaviour of the gay male patrons as a kind of spectacle or entertainment for the group’s enjoyment.”

The tribunal also said that there were plenty of other bars where lesbians and heterosexuals could meet to express “affection or physical intimacy.”

In an interview with The Scotsman, Mr McFeely said he left his native Scotland 17 years ago because of the homophobia he endured.

Mr McFeely also stressed that he did not wish to ban all heterosexuals.

He said: “We’ve always welcomed everyone at the Peel.

“But when it got to the stage where a gay person could feel intimidated or unsafe at a gay venue, that’s when I felt I had to take action. If I can limit the number of heterosexuals entering the Peel, then that helps me keep the safe balance.”

A spokesman for the Victorian Gay And Lesbian Rights Lobby told The Scotsman: “We support the exemption. One of the objects of the Equal Opportunities Act is to foster an environment which is protective of and supportive of the act.

“This is about a marginalised and disadvantaged community. Gay men feel they’re not in a safe environment at the Peel.

“But we feel it’s quite sad that you need to go and use the law to try to protect gay men’s rights.”

The ruling comes two years after another controversial decision which allowed an Australian gym chain to admit only women.

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