Catherine Cusack
Catherine Cusack Jacklyn Wagner

Cusack stands firm on "tough questions" about gays

CATHERINE Cusack has refused to back down from the "tough questions" she put to a leading AIDS fighting activist in parliament about the negative attitude she believes a faction of the gay community has adopted towards women.

The Lennox MP made headlines this week when it was revealed that during a parliamentary inquiry into same-sex marriage, she had grilled chief executive of ACON Nicholas Parkhill about whether, in the gay community, women were often referred to in derogatory terms.

She asked whether women, in general, were referred to as "breeders" and if female friends of gay men were known as "fag hags".

She also questioned why ACON was not delivering AIDS/HIV services to straight people who contracted the disease.

The Herald reported that Mr Parkhill was "taken aback" by the Liberal MLC's line of questioning.

Ms Cusack said yesterday that while some might expect members in parliamentary inquiries to "sit there like wall flowers", she maintained her right to use taxpayers' money to ask the "tough questions".

She explained that as ACON had submitted that "inclusiveness" was good for people's mental health, she felt it important to ensure that "people in the gay community wanting equality were actually practising what they preach".

Her comments, she stressed, were not reflective of her attitudes towards the gay community as a whole, but of her concerns about "an element in Sydney's gay culture" which could show "a little more respect for women generally".

"Female MPs have overwhelmingly supported gay rights for decades and many reforms would not have passed if, proportionately, we voted the same way as the boys," Ms Cusack said.

"If we had more women in parliament, we would have seen many of these reforms pass years ago."

All witnesses who appeared before the March inquiry were men.

Ms Cusack said she would continue to vote in support of marriage equality but if true reform was to take place "more of a team approach" was needed.

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