25th anniversary panel discussion on homosexual law reform

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[00:00:00] This audio comes from the panel discussion out after dark toy taco taco, homosexuals and slice of heaven, recorded at the pop up on the 17th of March 2011. It was recorded and supplied courtesy of to pop up and features friend wild, Bill Logan and Allison Lori. [00:00:19] Through the 1970s, there were various attempts and discussions. But nothing really happened. There were a few campaigns, but they were based on unequal ages of concerns and things of that kind. And then finally, discussions were held in 1984 with Fred Wilde, who was news parliament member for Wellington Central. And then in 1985, the bill was introduced. We believe that it would be a short, sharp parliamentary campaign, but very rapidly opposition was mobilized. And it became clear that it was going to be a very broad public campaign. And a number of organizations was for and against the bill were formed and it became a great Bethel ground for some of which we'll discuss in more detail. libertarians were very involved in this campaign. And that's of course, because when any will earliest wins will not within six wasn't criminal in this country. When any kind of homosexuality is illegal, then every homosexual, male or female is seen as criminal. The interesting thing about this bill is that alliances, strong alliances were formed. And those are for those of you who are not from New Zealand in 1981, the springboard to assault the country divided on the issue of whether or not South African apartheid South Africa should come here and play rugby the country divided. And it's interesting that the same division became apparent during the campaign to homosexual law reform. And really, it was the division between the old Zealand of Rob Muldoon and the conservatives and the New Zealand finally to be represented by Helen Clark, and very progressive ideas. Personally, I think what I'd like to say is that, for me, I always wanted to be involved in that campaign I was very aware of when I came out in the late 1950s. And through the 1960s, or, and at that point, we had very mixed communities of lesbians in gaming, and we called ourselves camps at that time. And it was very clear that we were all outcasts together, and that we would either move forward together and progress would happen, or it wouldn't. I would also just like to finally say that part of our public campaign with actions that we undertook for visibility, to improve the morale of our communities that people will becoming very despondent because a lot of the things that were happening, and we used a lot of humor, to try to improve people's spirits, and create a sense of community. So in that sense, there were a lot of different things going on. And finally, we achieved success in 1986 with the passage of the bill. [00:03:04] Thank God. [00:03:10] And greetings to all the Irish here tonight. [00:03:15] If you're not are she wanted to be. [00:03:18] Look, I first of all, I'm sitting on a hard Chico's I got a bad back. I'm an old cripple lyst it's like cats and on this. [00:03:27] I just want to probably use for to say why did I get involved while I was elected to Parliament in 1981, for Wellington Central, and just before that election, an emissary for from the gay community came to see me and said, would you vote for having sexual order form? And I said, Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah. Young, urban liberal, why wouldn't I? Next Christian was a bit last year, what would you sponsor a bill if nobody else would? And I thought, [00:03:52] Oh, I suppose so I instantly said. [00:03:57] and thereafter, my life was changed forever. [00:04:01] Nobody else would. And and the first bill that I looked at first was the equality bill, which may or may not be discussed tonight, but for various reasons that don't proceed. And I've got some lovely memories of what some of my caucus colleagues said about that. And then, after the 84 election, we [00:04:22] drafted and I introduce the hermetic law reform bill. [00:04:27] There's only one thing I want to say. And that is, people often say what was the single biggest thing and, and actually getting it through? Well, when I knew that when was the date was introduced, they were not the numbers were there for it to be passed, people were just being sporting, and, you know, gentleman's agreement vote for the first reading. And so MPs needed permission to vote for it. And that meant there, they had to feel comfortable in their electorate. And that means we needed a public education was actually an information campaign. And the single biggest thing, I think, and changing people's mind was visibility of the gay community and all of the people that came out during the campaign, which was a really brave thing to do, especially for the for the guys, because that was illegal. And just hundreds of people all over the country. And suddenly New Zealanders started seeing that this wasn't going to be the end of Western civilization, although some might have said that was a good idea and other speech, but actually, oh my gosh, people I work with, or people in my family, actually and and it was kind of a revelation for people to say that gay people and lesbians, although they're kind of Manafort are more familiar with the Lisbon community because at least that wasn't a criminal element, but that these people were just like everyone else. And I think that was the key kind of thing that happened that allowed New Zealanders who were full of preconceptions and prejudices, to say, Yeah, okay, and then seeing what the other side was saying, kind of, we can't have people ordinary New Zealanders demonized. So that was probably the key thing. [00:06:16] Well, well. [00:06:19] Like, I guess, the thing ledge, looking back on that is most impressive to me, is had different life is for gaming now than it was then it was it was very difficult to be publicly gay, and do a real job back then. And that that change, that's a very, very rapidly. And so you had as one of the most significant immediate results of homosexual law forms, rapid rise over professional gay cast in the public service, and all sorts of other parts of society. That very open and very assertive. And I think that a lot of people who are not part of that have also benefited from, I am a much, much easier, a much lower level of prejudice, which isn't to say that there isn't enormous prejudice in no public prejudice. It's interesting, we've learned that it's not proper, to be homophobic. But there's a lot of homophobia in families. And, of course, among teenagers. And the worst place to be gay in New Zealand now is in high schools. And we have a responsibility to do something about that. What was important was not really the law change, on a whole change is absolutely crucial, because it was symbolic of the other changes. But it was the fight around the law change. And they and they and the massive public education campaigner. I think that's what max the New Zealand experience of as different from experiences of other countries, this 16 months public campaign where we, with the news, every night, it was exhausting. The room was all of us. But for, like, every lesbian and gay person in the country, I say was exhausted. And and that wasn't without its costs. You know, we knew as this was happening, that, in a way, the campaign that we were leading, was leading to suicides. And somehow there was nothing to be done, or very little, I mean, we did you do what you can on these things. But it was it was, it was a nasty calculation, that we kind of didn't, we were trapped, that the suicides were going to go on and on and all this money, and that not only implemented emblematic of, of other kinds of filters and oppression. There's lots of other things. [00:09:51] So you know, that's, that's the broad setting for me. [00:09:56] And it was a matter of building the biggest possible lines. [00:10:02] It was important that the Labour Party Come on side, it was important to get trade unions which are not naturally the most friendly to that state. Nice. And that was partly what was done then. I saw the crucial layer of it is Labour Party women. I, my my calculation was that the most important strategic ally was Labor Party women. [00:10:40] The other thing, of course, is that even though it was was hard work, [00:10:49] there was some really good fun. Oh, yes. And there's lots of stories of wonderful kinds of things which happened, crazy confrontations with Norman Jones or some of the other opponents. That I suppose I'll be recorded sometime, but just amusing stuff. [00:11:16] I would just add to the add to that, that part of the reason for some of the suicides was because one of the tactics of the 80s was the construction of this petition against the bill, which was very nastily praised, and was taken by the Salvation Army. I've never forgiven them nor given them fit ever since. At the action was completely unfamiliar church. They took the petition door to door and throughout the country, and the head stands in the street, inserted various other so called religious bodies. Now as a concept, and the petition was taken into workplaces, it was taken into old age homes, it was taken into schools. And the reason for many of those suicides was that people that some small towns, the petition would come in. And if you're not, if you don't sign up against the bill, you might be queer. So people would sign came in at least once with sign, and they go home and just go through a crisis. And that caused a lot of suicides. And we knew that, and that's one of the reasons for trying to do the public campaign in a way that was good human so that we didn't precipitate violence. So the street matches we had we had balloons and people singing. A lot of other people joined up on such a match because it's almost like a parade. But they were packing out so they were serious messages. And when we had one of my favorite actions was when we bought the aunties, we're doing the so called Coalition for concerned citizens that sort of name these American inspired fundamentalists, because the money came from [00:12:54] the KKK. The money [00:12:55] came from America, and they funded this campaign here. And this was the first attempt to do that. And subsequently, they went on and did it in the islands successfully, and they have done it very successfully. And Uganda, that is why that stuff is happening. They went on and did it elsewhere. They try to do it here. And last, we didn't really think about the fact that they were going to do it elsewhere. Or maybe we were to exist as a nation. That's what they did. And there's people analyzing that now through the yoga, that that's where they did us and they were successful there. And those poor people, it's terrible. But one of the things, they had things like the town hall and held these huge meetings. So we went and broke up the meeting, infiltrated the meeting, and we did it with we had a whole lot of funny songs were saying and we had signs I could have on a TV program that said laugh. So people became hysterical. [00:13:51] Firstly, the audiences are static. [00:13:55] hysterical. So people like your name, usually, [00:13:58] the norm giants was trying to stand on the platform and say get back to the whole places in the world. laughter. And that was good. That worked well, for us. [00:14:08] There's another time when we bought the meeting, because we were hitting on this norm. JOHN said something like, you know, we paid for this, if you want to speak as much as this you've got to pay $300 or $500. What if you gotta pay go pay right now. Go some money and click the money immediately in Parliament by this scene of collecting money, presented the money and took over anything. [00:14:46] weird situations that happened, but Nolan Jones, who was the leader Really? [00:14:54] in Parliament. He he didn't he refused to debate me. [00:15:01] He wasn't he didn't want I didn't [00:15:04] want to get too close to bill and cancer was catching. [00:15:06] Well, no. [00:15:09] He agreed this Australian [00:15:13] program decided that they would they and he agreed that as long as the conditions never showed in New Zealand, they raised this debate and so I as he came out and put my hand out and you saw him go to be polite and then realize that he shouldn't and it was at that point like I I talked about how he was more obsessed about sodomy than anyone else I had ever met. [00:15:42] Well, he called himself the mouth from the south he was from [00:15:46] family background was particularly at that time it didn't really seem relevant he was just an the most appallingly atrocious man. And builds right that obsessed with sodomy. And the we are terrible with bad women anything at all. It was terrible man and a whole lot of yc. It wasn't just us. But he this was just a lightning rod actually, in some ways for him, but some of he and some of the others in Parliament and also obvious in slick Committee, which we know for a while with the petition as well. Just came along and rehearsed all these terrible practices that they said, you know, gay men got up to and if they can, so at least guys getting off on this or was it was kind of relevant. And this week, on day after day, night after night, and it was pretty awful, actually, and how their minds were thinking that was all I could think about. It wasn't wasn't it was pretty weird people actually lot and of course, later on, we saw what, you know, the christian fundamentalist representative next well, not very much lighter ground capable, of course, ended up in jail, which was a good thing. Norm had a brain tumor and died. So you know that these were terrible people and the Salvation Army weren't donkey deep. Like many people, I've never supported them, since I wouldn't give them a cent. Nothing, I'm afraid even though some of them are pretty good. People are sorry that there's plenty of other good charities to to support, you don't have to support them. But we had wasn't the religious element was interesting, because there was a huge divide. And the more traditional churches like, you know, the Presbyterians and the Catholic Church and others, there were groups on one side or the other, and caused ferocious debates through the whole kind of religious community, which actually haven't totally gone away. And some of them there's no debating whether they should have guy bishops or priests or whatever women women do. I mean, how fun is to leave. [00:18:00] We were, we were so innocent, we [00:18:04] were caught on the hop. I mean, we didn't have very strong organizations, we had the guy task force, which wasn't terribly well organized. We lesbians were more concerned as to whether they'd be this kind of opposition because in 1984, at the women's forums, which the library of it had set up when it came into office. These were forums held throughout the country to discuss the formation of a ministry presents fears and various issues, to women. And these were held right throughout the country. And this means, of course, have attended these forums. And to our shock and horror, they had all these women capturing Bibles wearing hats, [00:18:49] and scarves. Jesus is [00:18:52] and and one of them, for example, they went to the lesbian forum, there was a lesbian forum. And a lot of reasons hadn't gone to because it was up against the domestic violence forum. And you know, he's been involved with refuge and different things. And these women took over the list in form and past emotion that leads me doesn't was was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. [00:19:20] This was at the promise that this was at the promised and for. So this means hit quickly hold another form in the afternoon to kind of revote. [00:19:26] So because we'd sort of [00:19:28] had the experience of there, I remember raising net, but the task was before the bill was introduced and saying no, do you think maybe something's going on? And these people might, you know, do something about this? At the Beatles? Oh, no, no, they don't have you interested in, you know, being anti abortion and things like that? Well, they were out in force. But we hadn't really strategized. So we had to do it very quickly. And we were kind of having to invent things on the on the goal, as we saw them [00:19:51] doing really well on the go. And we could wait. And at the beginning, I was keen not to have a big campaign before was bill was introduced, because I knew that we didn't have the numbers in Parliament at that stage. And, and I knew that there was this kind of gentleman's agreement tradition that every bill gets a first reading and thought about it too far in advance, and they've been any publicity, we might not have even got it introduced, they would have voted it at the end. So it was we just completely got on the order paper and have a wind. But then, of course, just holy hell broke out and literally holy hell and there was huge organization very fast, actually, the the guy Task Force and Wellington Auckland, and Dean and other parts of the country got mobilized. That year, there were there were a number of different strains. And people had different. I mean, they were, we wanted it to be as broad as possible, so that anybody who wherever they were all whoever they were called, he joined in something. So things like Hank, were formed deliberately, actually, by people, and, and to say, okay, there's another stream of people, there were groups formed within churches and within the net, and the other, and [00:21:15] how go forming groups. We had to we [00:21:20] had to have platforms for people to join and show their support. [00:21:26] And because otherwise, we just have individual so some of those groups with a lot of people, but then they would kind of snowball. The other difficulty was it's pre internet. You know, it's pretty cheap phone really was done by snail mail, [00:21:39] Toby running. So we're trying [00:21:41] to raise money for to make phone calls between the cities to try to get, you know, some kind of coordination. But one of the things that, I must say here is that we had fantastic superb job right from the beginning from the Chicago. Yes, we did. Yeah. And I, we contacted the auger immediately that point, they were the idea, the International guy Association, the International Israel against representative Sylvia, born who was an Amsterdam, she said, you're in serious trouble. I will set everything in motion, he said. And we ended up with some very, very, I went to a conference, conference, and Canada, got some very good connections. And we ended up with a situation where we could fun, we'd sign up this man's we'd find new york and save this man's to end up, you know, who is he? And they'd say, Oh, this is so and so he works for the Archdiocese of New York. So we could rush notes into parliament friend, and who could say always relate to that says, and they thought we had this huge organization. But really, [00:22:43] what I mean, we did it, we got some rich game in Davis put some money, but it was it was it was [00:22:53] I mean, it was it was actually a grew very fast into a huge, comprehensive national campaign. And in my office, I was really lucky because I was actually one of the party works. And that was really handy for another reason, because it gave me access to who was in the house that night, and who wasn't. And this used to come in every Wednesday, which was the day that did private member's bills. And I knew who was the one who wasn't. And we did a lot of trading. And we'd seen people after some employees and say, I have to come back here. No, I mean, we did a lot of work on making sure we always hit the numbers, and we nearly lost a couple of times. So that was helpful. But the office became a kind of a headquarters, and the parish email system, God bless it. You know, I just thought because I was an employee, I can write all this stuff and send it out. And it was it was perfectly legitimate to do that. But we did. I mean, there are downsides to it, because the nurses and the fundamentalists were very threatening. So we got lots of death threats and stuff. And so my poor little, young ladies, who was the mail out now got traded, how to detect laser bombs and stuff like that. And I mean, it was pretty horrible. But it was massive. And every time every Wednesday when the bill was being debated, the office would just be all of the people who were helping, and they were lots of, we didn't have huge information need. So we could say, What's this? What's there. And Phil was really great, because he worked in the library to get us darker, and we'd use it and also when we hit the big public rallies, depending on if the if we were sharing a platform, if it was me on both sides, then we kind of knew what they're going to say. So we head out argument so I became very familiar with the Old and the New Testament and stuff like that. [00:24:46] Is that was [00:24:50] the MTC locker for every decriminalize. It'll just be rampant. Everybody will be dying of age, it'll be the biggest epidemic anything. And we see it actually if we don't decriminalize people will die because they want to go for medical help. And we can educate and I mean, [00:25:10] I mean, I it's pretty clear to me that I mean, we were told you're mad to try to to have homosexual law reform. In a Styria, we had to back it one. It actually it actually, I think was one of the main things to turn in public opinion, our [00:25:34] chronology for those of you our visitors or write it down because I can remember dates match at five, it was introduced that wonderful that 5124 and the silly, silly things to know what they're doing, thank God. petition launched by four famous Members of Parliament Bry Bruce Lee Jones and Walbank and then taken over by the Salvation Army and some gentleman called Keith Hi, tight, you remember them. And then that then we had more than 3000 submissions to the actual bill. And the knighthood that and the petition, the select committee, the petition was presented sorry, and September. And the bill revere fellows reported back in October was no recommendation from the flick video. In that case, you were ever going to make a recommendation because it was split. And I were too scared to recommend. And we had in the second rating, and all the way through, they tried to filibuster and stopping voted on or get it thrown out. So there was always this point of order. It was just nerve racking, I had to be there the whole time managing the numbers in the house. And then we had the committee stages, which dragged on for a few months. And we lost Part Two and the committee stages, which was the Human Rights Amendment, and that was a complete insurance policy by MP saying will, we have to vote for decriminalization that will kind of have $1 age where we won't vote for the human rights part, which of course, subsequently did get passed some years later. And then was passed in July 86. And some MP stood on the back of the lobby, to see whether we had the numbers and when they saw we hit the numbers. They voted against it. [00:27:26] I know who they are. [00:27:34] Oh, yeah. What was that? Oh, yeah. And that was the really interesting thing. [00:27:42] And you know how we achieved it, because on the committee stages, the opposition, the people that MPs voting against that thought that if it was 16, nobody in the right mind would vote for this bill. And they he voted for 16, because I thought that was so radical, that it wouldn't get through it through the readings. So I mean, quite honestly, you know, that was the miracle of the whole thing. [00:28:07] During the lower court process, obviously, there was [00:28:16] a that's exactly they did say, recently, [00:28:21] the union [00:28:24] equal [00:28:27] compromise. [00:28:31] In my view, they compromise on marriage was a stupid mistake that we had to go along with once it got to a certain stage because the right wing was so mobilized against that you had to you had to beat the right wing. But we should never have fought for a civil union, I believe I was I said, so quite publicly, [00:28:55] to the church out the lightest manifestation of fundamentalism in New Zealand. And it was organized by God God called Brian Tamaki, who's Marty and who now stars himself as Bishop Tamaki, probably Pope Tamaki shortly. And it's a classic fundamentalist religion, people paying a lot of money, you know, in the churches, and it is very attractive to modern people. There's a lot of young Marionette, and then they matched against the Soviet Union bill. It was scary stuff, because it was young married guys wearing black shoes in the streets. And that was another big mistake on the pad, actually, thank goodness. But scary stuff, that there's this whole new generation of kids now being sucked into religious fundamentalism for a while, let's your social. I mean, you know, we know why people go for that sort of thing. But, and that's why I mean, I wasn't part of that debate, but I can understand why the communities to in the world, we've got to win the swan, even if it's not what we want. Because of that one, again, it would have been a pushback of a whole lot of things. [00:30:12] So [00:30:17] not much, he was empty. He was always empty, funnily enough, [00:30:23] but he wasn't one of the kind of leading organizers of the thing. He was pretty vicious as he can be. [00:30:32] And but I don't recall him being one of the leading lights, no, no, my my best comeback on him was later on in Parliament, they used to have an annual parliamentary debate, a fun debate between the peace gallery and the MPs. And everyone needs to have to dress up if you're in the debating team. And I was in it one year, and he was in it. And we had the somebody, just the data debate brings on this huge pile of clouds. And I said, look at the sun, it was a fairy outfit. And we got john to the theory outfit. And the end, there's a pair of wings, and I pulled off one of them. And I left the right wing up and I said, Look, john, you're right, wing fieri. [00:31:18] Some of you would appreciate why that was. [00:31:23] Yes, he did. I have a photo of john as a right wing theory, which has been published subsequently with been used in here. Yeah. [00:31:35] It was really against. You know, [00:31:57] really? See, Sophie, I think that's a good characterization of what he Yeah, yeah, it was totally, I'm thinking and uncaring here [00:32:12] is they were, that's what they were worried about the vote. And so we did a lot of work in those electorates with churches with [00:32:21] local politicians. And we leave for third, we did a whole lot of stuff. And interestingly, there was a byelection while all this was on down and tomorrow, remember that, and I was forbidden to show my face they by the party hierarchy thought this would was this isn't South Island for the visitors, just south of Christchurch rural, very conservative. And they said, Oh, God, we can have any talk about having sexual reform. And our candidate was quite liberal. And I blamed her loss on it. It wasn't there two weeks. And I said to the writer, if we'd been able to campaign on as we had another electorates we would go on, and then he talked the issue. I think we would have actually turned the electorate, but I wouldn't even let me go near the electorate, because I was so worried that I would lose votes for them. Yeah. [00:33:15] I knew somebody asked 4944 Thank you. [00:33:20] I was get the numbers wrong for the different ratings here. There was a we will have a lot to lean into. He was [00:33:30] dead. [00:33:33] I knew all that didn't vote. Not everyone voted. And some people were deliberately away. Some people never voted in any way. And I spent hours talking to those in peace saying, Well, you know why, and some of them was how well off the edge, you can see what just it not be right. If anything, it never see 20 Council of homosexual [00:33:53] conservative members of parliament who voted against the [00:34:00] Absolutely. [00:34:02] And we knew everybody, we actually had quite significant data on all of the MPs are opposing it. [00:34:13] Which is really helpful. [00:34:17] And we got people invited out for dinner on the nights, the votes were on are invited to speak at things all over the country. We had, you know, heated we knew every Wednesday, we had to get certain people out of the house. And we would have Mars ahead. We had invitations and open door to speak that night, so they could never get back to Wellington if there was a significant vote. And so that was all highly organized. And that since we we learned very quickly. [00:34:52] Oh, my God, [00:34:57] in every society is going backward. As an historian, I'm very interested in the fact that your head and the y Mar Republic, you know, one of the one of the most liberal climates for both gay men and lesbians that we still have not seen as society as liberal, as Germany was, in that, in that period. I mean, you had a you had a you had the humanitarian Scientific Committee founded in the in the 90s, you had the World League for sexual reform, you had conferences held every year, you had dozens and dozens of magazines and newsletters and clubs. And yet, when the Nazis came to power 9283, it was gone. And one of the things that last year, I went through the Holocaust commemoration at Parliament, organized for the Jewish community. And one of the things that one of the people said, I found very important, which was that, given how liberal and accepting of the Jews and the Jewish communities Germany was, [00:36:13] the fact that [00:36:14] it could happen in Germany means it could happen anywhere. And I think that's Mr. dress as well. You know, I think that, you know, the, the the price of democracy and the price of progress is eternal vigilance. You know, if you don't keep up to it, and you keep watchful, it'll go. [00:36:36] Because those other people are always there, you know, their life raft, they never go away. The interesting thing is that fundamentalism is growing more than any other religion. We know that New Zealand, New Zealanders don't have much religion, which I think is good, they feeling secure lately, which is good, but the one religion that's growing as fundamentalism, and so we haven't even the, against the boardwalk of the old, established churches, because they just they fading, actually, people are losing interest. And the fundamentals are much more aggressive. I think that's something we need to be careful about in all walks of life. [00:37:20] Yeah. [00:37:29] That was a possibility. That's really scary. I mean, [00:37:37] this, this lot of politicians would want to want to preside over a rollback. But politicians are very disposable commodities. [00:37:48] And also I've seen and tons of major disaster, what happens like Canterbury Bessemer, the government's taken over, and it might be fun for the disaster relief, and, and, you know, the reagan destruction, but they had previously taken over the Regional Council down there. And a lot of people now are saying, quite well, people are saying, actually, it's a lot easier that democracy. And that's the scariest thing I've heard from significant figures, public figures, saying that in Canterbury, it's been easy without democracy, this was pre earthquake. And so we only need, you know, something bigger on a bigger scale. And suddenly, there's an excuse for doing away with representative government. And then those people with the other agendas rolling on the back of that, not necessarily in the front, but on the back of it. So [00:38:41] not only not only that kind of disaster, like an earthquake, but a financial meltdown. And then you start getting people wanting to escape goes in the religious what the religious do at that point to say God is punishing as if we tolerate homosexuals, and we've allowed abortions and women are our country. [00:39:05] You know, and they look for and they look for the and some people believe that but other people will look too strong government and those kinds of situations to get them out of once they haven't got a job and they can't pay the mortgage, and everything's awful, and there's a total disaster. Those are the ingredients which allow these kind of people to come through. [00:39:27] Just imagine a large increase in unemployment, and some and some very publicly privileged gay men out there, and how easy it would be to blame game in for taking our jobs. [00:39:45] Women. One more [00:39:46] question. One more question. [00:39:54] Thank you for coming.

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