Australia's new deputy prime minister is being called on to "heal the wounds" left by a shocking anti-LGBTQI rant he penned 25 years ago.
Michael McCormack, 53, on Monday took up the post as Australia's new deputy prime minister after the previous occupant, Barnaby Joyce, quit following weeks of controversy over his affair with a former staffer.
In 1993 McCormack, then a newspaper editor, penned an editorial in Wagga Wagga's Daily Advertiser describing gay/lesbian persons as "sordid" and blaming them for AIDS. McCormack, who is also Australia's Veterans' Affairs Minister, has apologized throughout his career for the article.
Some LGBTQI rights activists have expressed concern over McCormack's elevation to the office of Deputy Prime Minister.
While welcoming McCormack's apologies, just.equal spokesman Rodney Croome called on him to "walk the talk" and support initiatives to help LGBTQI Australians overcome isolation, prejudice and suicide in parts of rural Australia.
"The apologies Mr. McCormack made in the past are welcome but given the hatefulness of what he said, and the high office he has stepped in to, he needs to walk the talk," Croome said in a statement.
"He needs to heal the wounds caused by the kind of prejudices he publicly expressed in the past."
McCormack issued a fresh statement in August last year apologizing for the editorial. When he issued the August apology, he was small business minister and had ministerial responsibility for the same-sex marriage postal vote.
"I have grown and learnt not only to tolerate but to accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, or any other trait or feature which makes each of us different and unique," he said at the time.
Australian's overwhelmingly voted yes in the national survey, and same-sex marriage was legalised in December last year.
McCormack replaces Barnaby Joyce, who made global headlines last year when he threatened to execute Johnny Depp's dogs and more recently when he was forced to quit the role of deputy prime minister following weeks of controversy surrounding his extra-marital affair with a former staffer who is now pregnant.
A father of three, McCormack was elevated to the post after he was elected leader of The National Party ― a move which automatically makes him deputy prime minister thanks to a long-standing agreement with conservative coalition partner, The Liberal Party.