Gay elderly couple ordered to take down their rainbow flag

James Bellia and Murray Sheldrick

James Bellia and Murray Sheldrick

The Age reports that an elderly gay couple in Port Melbourne has been ordered to take down the gay pride flag that hangs from their apartment balcony — or face legal action.

On Wednesday of last week, the Melbourne Inner City Management Property Owners Corporation send a “nasty” email to Murray Sheldrick, 78, and James Bellia, 72, insisting they take down the flag or face a legal case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Sent by Fairfax Media, the letter suggested the couple was in breach of the owner’s rules affecting the “peaceful enjoyment” of the other residents. The breach also claims the couple was “displaying advertising materials.”

Bellia and Sheldric, who own their property,have been a couple for 50 years. They bought the flag in February and have removed it from their balcony for the time being. Typically, they hang the flag on special occasions: Australia Day, Queen’s Birthday and the Midsumma Festival.

Mr Bellia said he and his partner are convinced the email was homophobic:

“We are positive it is homophobia, there is no doubt about it. Why else would they bother us? The flag is on a huge terrace, it’s not in anyone’s view.”

The owners corporation rejected the suggestion, saying it was only responsible for reinforcing the building’s professional appearance:

“A uniform external appearance is to be maintained. Even curtains, blinds and window fixtures are to be of a uniform nature,” it said in a statement.

“There is no legal or moral justification for preventing people from being proud of who they are,” said Justin Koonin of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. “Elderly LGBTI people in particular have suffered discrimination and invisibility for many years, often decades. This is not caused by their identity, but by living in a society which does not accept their identity.”

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