zero pride

Lawmaker comes out in maiden speech and then trashes the rainbow flag

Liberal MP Joe McCracken
Joe McCracken MP (Photo: Joe McCracken/Facebook)

An Australian lawmaker has come out as gay in his maiden speech to Parliament. However, he went on to say his sexuality does not define him and he sees no need for LGBTQ+ people to have their own festivals or flags.

Joe McCracken is an MP for the Liberal Party in the state of Victoria. In Australia, the Liberals are a center-right party. “Liberal” in this case means small government and allowing businesses more freedom to make money.

McCracken was elected to the state’s Upper House last November. Before this, he served as a councilor, deputy mayor and mayor at Colac Otway Shire. He was the youngest person ever to be elected councilor in the region, aged 28 in 2016 (so he’s in his mid-thirties now).

He gave his first speech today. Toward the end, he revealed he has a male partner.

Joe McCracken MP addresses Parliament in Victoria, Australia
Joe McCracken MP addresses Parliament in Victoria, Australia

“Most people would not know this about me, and it may come as a shock to some. I actually do have a partner in my life, but my partner is a he, not a she,” McCracken said.

“Jack, I want to thank you for all your support and care over the last period of time. It has been so appreciated.

“I do not know what I would have done without you. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this. I have experienced doubt, shame, anxiety and many other things.”

Related: Gay lawmaker gives tear-jerking first speech and it’s beautiful

Identity politics

He went on to say that he “hates identity politics.”

“I have never really talked about it much or made an issue of it, because I never wanted to be defined by it.

“I hate identity politics, and I will fight against it whenever I can.”

He continued, “I have always struggled with the concept of defining a person by one aspect of who they are.

“A person is made up of a large set of diverse characteristics – age, gender, sexuality, race, religion, occupation. Why do we need to take one of those characteristics, amplify it and define a person in that way?

“Gay people do not need to be treated any differently to anyone else: no separate doctors, no separate radio stations, no festivals, and no separate flags,” McCracken added.

“And I question the need for a separate flag to identify the LGBTQ community: The rainbow flag. Flags represent nations and countries. And the only flags I’ll be saluting is the Australian flag and the Victorian flag,” he said.

“They are the only flags that do not discriminate on the people they represent.”

McCracken’s comments come as Australia is gearing up to host WorldPride at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Businesses across the country are marking the occasion by displaying rainbow flags or putting on other displays of pro-LGBTQ+ allyship.

Related: Political candidate places ads on Grindr, wants to come ‘top’ in election

Aiv Puglielli

McCracken is not the first gay MP to serve in the Victoria Parliament. Labor MP Harriet Shing was out when elected in 2014. Fellow Labor MP Steve Dimopoulos came out last year. The local Green party also boasts queer MPs Aiv Puglielli and Gabrielle De Vietri.

Puglielli also gave his maiden speech in the Upper House today. In contrast to McCracken, he has been photographed at many queer festivals and is a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. In his speech, Puglielli said, “As a queer person, I have seen my LGBTIQA+ community be used as a perennial political football.

“We are championed for cynical political gain when it’s electorally advantageous, but we are cast aside when it’s politically expedient.”

Referencing the bitter public debate on marriage equality in Australia, he said, “Only six years ago, our human rights were the subject of public, often vitriolic debate, in the Marriage Equality plebiscite.

“I know what it’s like to have my rights, my way of life, on a public trial. To this community, I promise that I will work hard every day to make this parliament more inclusive and compassionate.”