An Australian gay bar has got 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 Monday that to allow large numbers of non-gays onto the premises could "undermine or destroy" the convivial atmosphere the Peel Hotel sought to create for gay men.
McKenzie said 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 an animal at a zoo, devalues and dehumanizes them," she was quoted by News Ltd. newspapers as saying.
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, socialize 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 able to ask people whether 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 favorably, or treated unfairly compared with other groups," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Tuesday. "In this case, what we know is that there are many options for heterosexuals males to enjoy a safe, social environment."