MELBOURNE - An Australian gay bar has won the right to turn away heterosexuals and lesbians to provide a safe environment for the men partying inside.
A tribunal in southern Victoria state ruled earlier this week that the owners of the Melbourne- based Peel Hotel could ban straight men, women and even lesbians from entering the premises to stop "sexually-based insults and violence" toward its own patrons.
In her findings, the tribunal's deputy president Cate McKenzie said that to allow large numbers of non-gays on to the premises could "undermine or destroy" the convivial atmosphere the Peel Hotel sought to create for gay men.
McKenzie said that there was evidence that some of the bar's straight patrons were going to the Peel Hotel to deride the predominantly gay customers for entertainment.
"To regard the gay male patrons of the venue as providing an entertainment or spectacle to be stared at, as one would at animals at a zoo, devalues and dehumanises them," she said.
The tribunal granted the Peel Hotel an exemption to Australia's Equal Opportunities Act - which bars discrimination on race, religion or sexuality - saying it sought "to give gay men a space in which they may, without inhibition, meet, socialise and express physical attraction to each other in a non-threatening atmosphere".
The pub will now be able to advertise that it will turn away straight people and its door staff will be permitted to ask people if they are gay before allowing them inside.
The head of Victoria's Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission applauded the decision, saying it protects the rights of gay people.
"These exemptions exist to protect groups in the community who are subject to being treated less favourably, or treated unfairly compared with other groups," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
"In this case, what we know is that there are many options for heterosexual males to enjoy a safe, social environment." - Sapa-AP