Jeff Kennett, the ex-premier of Victoria state in Australia, backed the firing of a trainer for the Bonnie Doon [Australian Rules] Football Club after it learned he was gay. He equated the trainer’s sexuality with being a pedophile. The Herald Sun newspaper reported Kennett’s defense of Bonnie Doon firing Ken Campagnolo (photo):
"The club felt that once this had been pointed out and you had this gentleman there who was obviously close to young men -- massaging young men -- it ran an unnecessary risk and that's why it decided it was best that he not perform those duties again. So the club was trying to do the right thing," Mr Kennett said.
"It's the same if you have a pedophile there as a masseur, right? And you might say the pedophile would do no damage, but once it was pointed out to you, you have a duty of care to those underage children not to put them in a situation of risk."
Kennett is a not some fringe nutjob politician, but has a very high profile and is considering running for Lord Mayor of Melbourne, one of the country's largest cities.
Campagnolo had worked for the club for 22 years before being fired last year. He has so far lost his bid to be reinstated and is taking legal action against the team and the league it plays in. He was shocked by the comments by Kennett, who is president of an Aussie Rules team in the sport's major league.
"I am not a pedophile. Does that mean every straight male doctor cannot treat any female patient?" Campagnolo said.
After taking heat for his comments, Kennett then claimed his quotes were taken out of context. He told the Herald Sun he was referring to a sports club's duty of care to its players.
"You have to have a higher level of duty of care nowadays because of potential litigation," he said.
"I am not interested in the sexuality of a particular person. What I am talking about is duty of care and litigation, so I've been completely taken out of context."
Equating gay people with pedophiles is one of the oldest slanders used by homophobes and one would have hoped that no right-thinking person could ever make the connection. Then along comes a prominent politician who shows the level of homophobia that still exists. Kennett refused to apologize for his comments, saying, “I haven’t offended the gay community. I was merely trying to illustrate a duty of care.”
What’s more appalling is that he is chairman of a national effort to combat mental depression. As Anne Mitchell, who heads a gay and lesbian group in Victoria, said, “Most of us who are out and proud in the gay community will think, ‘Oh it’s this rubbish surfacing again’, but there are a hell of a lot of young GLBT people who are wondering how they will be accepted by family and friends, and when someone so prominent says this, it is very destructive.” –Jim Buzinski
Ken Campagnolo photo by A. Shaw / Melbourne Community Voice
Hat tip to Gay.com.