Embattled Australian Speaker Peter Slipper Steps Down

PeterSlipperYesterday, i linked to this PinkNews article about Australian House Speaker Peter Slipper, who's become ensnared in what most media outlets are calling a "gay sex scandal," though nobody claims any actual sex was involved. CapitalFM News ably sums up the accusations:

Weekend reports alleged Peter Slipper harassed former staffer James Ashby, including telling him to shower with the door open when he stayed at his home, and “moaning” in a sexual manner after asking him for a massage.

The married Slipper, 62, was also accused of misusing taxpayer-funded taxi services.

The ABC said 33-year-old Ashby, who is openly gay, had launched legal action under the Fair Work Act detailing alleged explicit text messages, unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate comments towards him.

Separate reports said he was seeking compensation in the Federal Court as well as orders for his former employer to undergo counselling and anti-discrimination training.

Just to be clear, the person to whom Slipper is married is a woman.

The Slipper scandal broke in the newsmedia on Friday as Slipper wrapped up a trip to America. Upon his return to Australia on Sunday, he issued a statement in which he denied all allegations, but agreed to temporarily step aside as Speaker. Capital FM quotes Slipper's statement:

“The allegation is incorrect and once it is clear they are untrue I shall return to the speakership. In relation to the civil matter, there will be an appropriate process that will resolve the matter in due course.”

The situation for Slipper gets grimmer. Slipper's not only a professional politician and family-man; he's a priest in the Traditional Anglican Communion. Now his alleged friend, the Archbishop John Hepworth, is asking him to step down from that position as well. From The Australian:

"It is right for anyone accused of serious misconduct in public life, whether in church life or political life, to stand aside until the processes of justice reach a conclusion," Archbishop Hepworth said.

"Ministers of the crown and cardinals of the church have followed this sound principle in recent years in Australia; otherwise, the integrity of our core institutions is eroded, and our expectations of public morality further decay.

"As Peter Slipper's archbishop, I applaud his decision to stand aside as Speaker, and am seeking a similar decision in relation to his public functions in the church."

Slipper's stepping down from the Speakership has already cost Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Labor Party their one-vote majority in the House of Representatives. Opposition leader (and enemy of LGBT rights) Tony Abbot is surely thrilled, but is affecting outrage, as he must.