Rainbow pride lights for LGBTQ people inappropriate, says RSL

Lee said he was disappointed to have cancelled, but the decision was made following the threats, to protect the community.

Shrine of Remembrance chief executive Dean Lee.Credit:Eddie Jim

On Sunday, for the first time, the Shrine hosted a wreath-laying ceremony and Last Post for LGBTQ veterans and advocates, as the rainbow flag flew in the forecourt.

Afterwards, about a dozen protesters opposing the LGBTQ service jostled with police when officers attempted to move them on. No one was arrested, police said.

A small group protested against the LGBTQ event at the Shrine on Sunday evening.Credit:Eddie Jim

Lee said he supported many of the objectors’ views that they wanted to protect the sacred nature of the Shrine.

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But he said the Shrine felt galvanised to support the LGBTQ community and many people would view the exhibition, Defending With Pride, which opens on Monday telling LGBTQ servicepeople’s stories.

Lee said it would take time “before people become comfortable with recognising the Shrine’s contemporary role in serving and supporting the general community of Victoria”.

Rachael Cosgrove, president of the Defence LGBTI Information Service, said her organisation and others in the queer community were sad and disappointed the lights were cancelled.

She said the lights would have helped signify that LGBTQ people in defence were in a safe environment, and helped change attitudes.

However, the exhibition would continue and was an exciting opportunity to highlight, celebrate and commemorate the service in defence of the LGBTQ community, she said.

Lights for LGBTQ veterans would have been a beautiful symbol, says Claire Andrews (right), pictured with daughter Bree.Credit:Eddie Jim

Among visitors on the Shrine forecourt on Sunday, playwright and LGBTQ community member Kevin McGreal, 52, of Southbank, said he did not see why people would object to coloured lights. “It was just a lovely gesture.”

Bree Andrews, 23, of Nathalia, said she understood the Shrine was protecting staff and visitors from potential violence and threats in calling off the lights, but “part of me thinks it’s letting hate win”, and it made her sad.

Bree’s mother, Claire Andrews, 60, whose late brother did not feel he could come out as gay when he served in the air force, said the lights would have been a “beautiful symbol of the acceptance of the LGBTQI community”.

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