LGBT History in Australia - The Gay Rights Movement

The Gay Rights Movement

Although British influences on Australian political culture were still noticeable in the sixties, there does not seem to have been any local response to the Wolfenden Committee and its hesitant recommendation of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in the United Kingdom. Some historians have attributed this to the 'convict stain' that tied erasure of white Australia's convict past to comparable amnesia about greater allowance for sex between men than would exist after consolidated settlement and colonisation began

Gay and lesbian rights movement groups were not organised in Australia until the late 1960s. The ACT Homosexual Law Reform Society, a humanist organisation based in Canberra which was formed in early 1969; and an Australian arm of the Daughters of Bilitis, which formed in Melbourne in late 1969, are considered Australia's first gay rights organisations.

The Campaign Against Moral Persecution (C.A.M.P.) was founded in Sydney in September 1970. John Ware and Christobell Poll announced the formation of an organisation called CAMP in an article on the front page of the magazine section of The Australian newspaper. Within about 12 months groups calling themselves local CAMP groups had formed in each capital city and soon there was this informal network around Australia. The first demonstration took place in October 1971 outside the Liberal Party headquarters in Sydney when a right-wing Christian fundamentalist stood against Tom Hughes for pre-selection. Tom Hughes was the federal Liberal Attorney-General and had spoken out in favour of limited homosexual law reform, so CAMP mounted a demonstration. In January 1971, the Melbourne-based gay rights organisation Society Five was formed as the local branch of the CAMP network.

Additional rights organisations followed, including The Gay Teachers Group, and The Homosexual Law Reform Coalition, gay rights organisations which started in the late 1970s.

In 1972, the Dunstan Labor government introduced a consenting adults in private type defence in South Australia. This defence was later introduced as a bill by Murray Hill, father of former Defence Minister Robert Hill, In 1975, South Australia became the first state or territory to legalise sexual conduct between males.

Other states and territories repealed their laws between 1976 and 1990. The exception was Tasmania, which retained its laws until the Federal Government and the United Nations Human Rights Committee forced their repeal in 1997.

An estimated 500 people marched down George Street to a rally in Martin Plaza in Sydney on 24 June 1978. Organisers said the march and rally were part of "international homosexual solidarity day" to demonstrate against sexual repression in Australia and other countries. The event recurred annually, becoming the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2008.

In 1984, the Australian Medical Association removed homosexuality from its list of illnesses and disorders.

The last gay man was arrested on 14 December 1984 in Hobart, Tasmania, when he was found having sexual conduct with another man on the side of the road in a car. He was sentenced to eight months jail.

In 1991, after consistent pressure from Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force (GLITF), the Migration Amendment Act (No. 2) 1991 (Cth) was passed, amending the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to allow Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents to sponsor their same-sex partners to Australia through a new Interdependency Visa.

In 1994, the Commonwealth passed the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994 – Section 4, legalising sexual activity between consenting adults (in private) throughout Australia. It wasn't until 1997 however when the law in Tasmania prohibiting gay male sexual conduct was repealed in Tasmania. However the ban on gay male sexual conduct was overturned in the courts in 1996 following Toonen v. Australia that gay male sexual conduct became formally legal in all Australian states and territories when the federal government passed the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994.

Read more about this topic:  LGBT History In Australia

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