Australia: Lord Mayor apologises for telling LGBT charity not to display ‘offensive’ banner

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A Lord Mayor in Sydney, Australia has apologised after city council staff instructed an LGBT charity to take down signage at a family festival, due to complaints that it was ‘offensive’.

Parramatta city council faced criticism after asking an LGBT support charity to take down signage displayed at a family festival, as it was deemed “offensive”.

A representative of the Lord Mayor of Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, John Chedid, instructed volunteers for the LGBT support charity, Twenty10, to remove a banner which described the kind of work the charity did, at the Rediscover the River festival, which is frequented by families.

In a statement on the charity’s website, Terence Humphreys, said he had received a letter from Mr Chedid, apologising for the incident.

It said: “We are glad to accept the apology and to begin further discussions with the Lord Mayor, his office and the Parramatta City Council to prevent similar situations in future.

“We welcome their assistance as we continue to support the youth of Western Sydney, their families and their communities,” it continued.

The banner read: ”Support services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people, their families and communities”, and was deemed “offensive” by a city council official who said they had received complaints.

Terence Humphreys had said those present had feared “a potentially toxic environment”, after being approached by a representative of Parramatta’s Lord Mayor, John Chedid, and so volunteers decided to no longer participate in the festival.

The charity had been invited to the Rediscover the River festival, to run a kite-making stall, but decided to pack up and leave once they were asked to take down the signage, a decision which was supported by some attendees, who thought it was wrong to ask them to take it down.

Many Facebook users had commented on the Parramatta City Council page, urging them to issue an apology to Twenty10 for the incident.

A petition calling for an apology had received 12,000 signatures, and read: “To Parramatta city council, Mayor’s Office, Your behaviour at a recent community event in relation to the LGBT organisation Twenty10 was appalling. Twenty10 and the LGBT community deserve an apology at the very least.”

A previous statement from the council said it had asked the banners to be taken down ”in response to numerous complaints by members of the public”, but said that the group were not asked to leave.

“Council regrets any inconvenience or offence taken by its actions and values the efforts and contribution of Twenty10 in servicing at-risk youth,” it said.

“Council has enjoyed a positive relationship with Twenty10 over some time and hopes to continue to work in partnership over the coming years.”

According to its website, Twenty10, it “is a community based, non profit state-wide organisation.  We work with and support young people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, their families and friends. We aim to be a beacon of strength and acceptance – supporting young people to build resilience and achieve their potential.”