Is Bundaberg a gay-friendly city?
BUNDABERG is gay-friendly.
That's the word from local gay man Benji Wood, who said the region had made a dramatic turn for the better on attitudes towards gay people in the past seven years.
"We have a little bit of a history. In 2010, Bundaberg was one of the most homophobic towns in Australia,” he said.
"Since then there has been a great change in the general community's mindset.”
Mr Wood's comments come after news of the government's decision to hold a voluntary vote on same-sex marriage.
Coalition MPs have decided a postal vote on marriage equality will be held before November if they are unable to secure support for a traditional plebiscite in Parliament this week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced the government's plans for the postal vote at Parliament House yesterday.
Mr Wood said he was all for marriage equality but thought the voluntary postal vote was "ridiculous” and "unfair”.
"It is a voluntary vote so not everyone has to do it, therefore there will be people out there that will be for it but may not vote,” he said.
"You then have a lot of lobbyists out there that will be voting against it.
"It is not a fair call.”
Mr Wood said he had many friends that had experienced hardship because current laws did not apply to same-sex couples.
"I have a belief in gay marriage because of the legalities behind it,” he said.
"I have seen my friends go through some horrible times - when someone is on life support and the family comes in and makes the decision because they have no leg to stand on because the laws don't recognise them as a married couple.
"They get pushed aside even though they have been together for 20 years.”
Mr Wood said he understood why certain groups did not agree with gay marriage but, for him, it wasn't about the big fancy wedding.
"The big hoo-ha about marriage being between a man or woman is fine, I get that some groups believe in that -fair enough,” he said.
"What I think we need is something that gives us the same legal rights as a married couple.”
Mr Wood, who helps run Heat Events, is active in the LGBTI community and urged gay people in Bundaberg to be proud of who they were.
"People are still very scared to come out or be comfortable with who they are in the public,” he said.
"They have a genuine fear they are still going to get bashed or name-called, but that generally isn't the case.”
As part of his work with Heat Events, Mr Wood organises gay-friendly events within the Wide Bay for people to mingle and meet one another.
"To them I say 'come along, it is not that bad'. We have been doing this for 12 months now and we haven't had a problem.”