MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An Australian hotel catering for homosexuals has won the right to ban heterosexuals from its bars so as to provide a safe and comfortable venue for gay men.
In what is believed to be a first for Australia, the Victorian state civil and administrative tribunal ruled last week that the Peel Hotel in the southern city of Melbourne could exclude patrons based on their sexuality.
Australia’s equal opportunity laws prevent people being discriminated against based on race, religion or sexuality.
But Peel Hotel owner Tom McFeely said the ruling was necessary to provide gay men with a non-threatening atmosphere to freely express their sexuality.
“If I can limit the number of heterosexuals entering the Peel, then that helps me keep the safe balance,” Peel told Australian radio on Monday.
McFeely said that, while the hotel welcomed everyone, its gay clientele had expressed discomfort over the number of heterosexuals and lesbians coming to the venue in the past year.
He said there were more than 2,000 venues in Melbourne that catered to heterosexuals, but his hotel was the only one marketing itself predominantly to gay men.
Victoria’s state human rights commission backed the ruling, saying it was in line with equal opportunity guidelines defending the rights of groups subject to discrimination.
Commission chief Helen Szoke said the hotel’s gay clientele had experienced harassment and violence. “(They) also have felt as though they’ve been like a zoo exhibit with big groups of women on hens’ parties coming to the club,” Szoke told reporters.
McFeely told the radio that the hotel had received homophobic telephone calls since news of the ruling was made public.