ELDERLY COUPLE ORDERED TO REMOVE RAINBOW FLAG


Rules are rules, but surely this flies in the face of common sense.

An elderly gay couple have been ordered to remove a rainbow flag from their private balcony or face legal action.

Murray Sheldrick, 78, and James Bellia, 72, received a letter from Melbourne Inner City Management Property Owners Corporation demanding that they take down the flag as it was in breach of owners corporation rules for “displaying advertising material” and affecting the “peaceful enjoyment” of other residents.

Mr Bellia said the couple, who have been in a relationship for 50 years, and own their property, unfurled the flag on special occasions, including Australia Day, Queen’s Birthday and the Midsumma Festival, but this was first time they had received a complaint.

They have since complied with the demand and removed it from their balcony.

But the couple claim their flag had nothing to do with advertising, as the body corporation suggested, nor was it obstructing someone’s view.

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.”

Property managing director Keith Bayliss said “no offence was intended” by the order, but it was part of the owners corporation’s rules.

We regret that people may have been hurt by the owners corporation notice,” Mr Bayliss said in a statement.

The owners corporation rules do not allow any materials to be displayed externally on the building or on balconies. A uniform external appearance is to be maintained. Even curtains, blinds and window fixtures are to be of a uniform nature.”

Port Phillip Council has backed the couple, with Mayor Amanda Stevens saying the gay pride flag should not be labelled as “advertising material”.

We in the City of Port Phillip are strong supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community and the rainbow flag is the international symbol which represents that community,” she said.

Cr Stevens said the council had no local laws relating to the flying of flags.

The couple moved to the Port Melbourne apartment in 2004, after Mr Sheldrick endured a traumatic homophobic attack in Mansfield, in 1998.

Mr Sheldrick was staying in the couple’s country holiday house, when two locals invaded and attacked him. The incident left him in intensive care for three-and-a-half weeks.

They invaded our house to ‘teach us a lesson’, because we were poofters. They bashed the hell out of him (Mr Sheldrick), he was brutally bashed, and finished up in intensive care,” he said.

Picture: Fairfax Media