November 27, 2008 / 3:08 AM / 10 years ago

Australia government embroiled in homophobia row

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia’s center-left government was accused of homophobia Thursday after two men appointed as high-profile ambassadors for men’s health were linked to a newsletter containing anti-gay views.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon was forced to sack one of the ambassadors, appointed only two days before, and said she should have been more diligent about background checks for the men.

“These comments particularly about homosexuality are quite abhorrent,” Roxon told state radio after sacking one of the two men.

The two were among six men named earlier in the week as role-models for Australian men on health matters.

Both were later found to have been listed as co-authors and contributors to a newsletter calling homosexuality a mental illness and blaming “radical feminist-led attempts to enforce social androgyny” for harm of boys and young men.

“Gender disorientation pathology is a symptom of family dysfunction, personality disorder, father absence, health malfunction or sexual abuse,” said the document, published by the Fatherhood Foundation.

Openly gay Australian Greens leader and senator Bob Brown said Roxon had for years prodded the former conservative government to tighten laws discriminating against single-sex couples, before Roxon’s Labor was elected last year.

“Nicola was the Labor shadow minister who told a cheering throng in this building in 2004 that Labor would lead the charge to ban gay marriage,” Brown said.

Roxon sacked one man, who refused to repudiate the newsletter and said he was being vilified because he believed every child was better off with a mother and a father.

“There’s a harm caused when you go outside the natural order,” Fatherhood Foundation president Warwick Marsh told the Australian newspaper.

Roxon said the government was working to reverse discriminatory laws for same-sex couples and said she hoped the influential gay and lesbian community, estimated to number around 400,000 people, would see the appointments as a simple mistake.

Eva Cox, from the Women’s Electoral Lobby, said the government had “stuffed it” with the appointments, but said she had probably been a victim of bad advice.

Editing by Bill Tarant

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