The following article in The Age illustrates, yet again, how far we have to go to rid society - and ourselves - of the scourge of homophobia. The owners corporation in this story is homophobic and/or it is responding to an owner in the building who is homophobic and the whole thing is a ridiculous episode, very upsetting to two people who have experienced homophobic episodes before this one.
We can not be complacent at any stage, because attempts to push us back into the closet and shut us up are ongoing and criminal. We must publicise every episode of any homophobic occurrence until the episodes cease and we are not any longer subject to human rights abuses.
Gay elderly couple ordered to take down gay flag in Port Melbourne
Murray Sheldrick, 78, and James Bellia, 72, received what they said was a "nasty" email from the Melbourne Inner City Management Property Owners Corporation on Wednesday last week, demanding that the couple remove the flag from their Rouse Street balcony, or risk a legal case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The letter, seen by Fairfax Media, warned the couple were in breach of the owner's corporation rules affecting the "peaceful enjoyment" of the other residents.
They said they had unfurled it on special occasions, including Australia Day, Queen's Birthday and the Midsumma Festival, but this was first time they received a complaint.
The couple wrote a letter to the Victorian Ombudsman last week about the incident, but were referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
They also contacted Port Philip Council, and are awaiting a response.
Mr Bellia said he and his partner, who are former interior designers, were in no doubt that the email was homophobic.
They said their flag had nothing to do with advertising, as the body corporation suggested, nor was it obstructing someone's view.
"We are positive it is homophobia, there is no doubt about it. Why else would they bother us? The flag is on a huge terrace, it's not in anyone's view."
The owners corporation rejected the suggestion that it discriminated against any group, and said it regretted the hurt the notice had caused.
It said it was responsible for maintaining the external appearance of the building, and its rules did not allow any materials to be displayed on balconies.
"A uniform external appearance is to be maintained. Even curtains, blinds and window fixtures are to be of a uniform nature," it said in a statement.
The couple moved to the Port Melbourne apartment in 2004, after Mr Sheldrick endured a traumatic homophobic attack in Mansfield, in 1998.
Mr Sheldrick was staying in the couple's country holiday house, when two locals invaded and attacked him. The incident left him in intensive care for three-and-a-half weeks.
"They invaded our house to 'teach us a lesson', because we were poofters. They bashed the hell out of him [Mr Sheldrick] he was brutally bashed, and finished up in intensive care," he said.
"It's not a very nice experience, it ruined his life altogether. He has never been himself since the home invasion. That's why we sold the property and moved into an apartment ...we didn't feel safe in a house anymore."
Mr Bellia said Mr Sheldrick, who has Parkinson's Disease, was feeling upset by the incident.
Justin Koonin, convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said questioning an LGBTI person's right to express themselves could be very damaging.
"There is no legal or moral justification for preventing people from being proud of who they are," he said.
"Elderly LGBTI people in particular have suffered discrimination and invisibility for many years, often decades. This is not caused by their identity, but by living in a society which does not accept their identity."
Fairfax Media has received a number of calls from lawyers offering to defend the couple.