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"Front up to lives lost" Salvation Army told

Mon 21 May 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Bill Logan in 1985 (pic Out! magazine A long-serving gay activist who was in the thick of it during the torrid fight for Homosexual Law Reform has angrily stated that the Salvation Army needs to show some accountability for the gay lives that were lost to suicide, as the debate raged in the nation’s headlines and households. The Salvation Army was a vehement force at the forefront of the fight against HLR, actively gathering signatures for a petition against it and spreading misinformation. It was at the centre of heated and nasty confrontations during rallies and protests that were held. Following up on a similar statement in 2006, on the 20th anniversary of HLR, the Salvation Army has issued another statement expressing sorrow about the time leading up to the passing of the Bill “as a time when judgemental and prejudiced words were spoken on both sides of the debate”. The statement, which follows discussions Rainbow Wellington began on the 25th anniversary of reform last year, says many Salvationists were deeply opposed to, and embarrassed by, the intemperate manner in which views were expressed during the debate. “We now understand that The Salvation Army’s official opposition to the Reform Bill was deeply hurtful to many, and are distressed that ill-feeling still troubles our relationship with some members of the glbti community,” it says. “We regret and apologise for any hurt that may remain from that turbulent time, and our present hope is to rebuild bridges of understanding and dialogue between our movement and the glbti community. We may not agree in the future on all issues, but we can respect and care for one another despite this.” However, Bill Logan, who was profoundly involved in the battle for Homosexual Law Reform; from strategy, to the trenches, to being the voice and face of the campaign, says when it comes to the Salvation Army, “it’s not just a matter of a few people having hurt feelings. It’s a matter of a huge assault on the queer communities of New Zealand, which resulted in an increased rate of suicidality for example.” Logan says reading today’s statement he is left with questions about what responsibility the Salvation Army takes for the loss of lives. “They don’t say in that statement that they were wrong,” an incensed Logan tells GayNZ.com Daily News. “They’re sorry if people’s feelings were hurt, is what they say.” He believes there were some in the organisation who were against the Army’s stance, “but the fact remains the Salvation Army is a military-style organisation which takes a position and fights for it. And they can’t retrospectively excuse themselves by saying ‘well we had different views then’. They’ve got to now say ‘We were wrong, collectively’ and ‘We salute those people who tried in vain among us to fight the evilness within us’.” Logan believes it is good to have dialogue with the Salvation Army and put in under pressure, “but this is letting them get away much too lightly,” he says. “What happened in that period was a really bitter, nasty campaign against us, and we had to fight back. And it led to a raising level of publicity about us, in a population which had survived by being deeply secretive. And so the breach of secretiveness, the breaking of all the patterns of accommodation of sexuality through secretiveness, was incredibly threatening to a subset of our people. “And we knew that by doing the campaign we were party in a certain kind of way, and what I say is partly informed by my own guilt of my part in this,” he explains. “By fighting for Homosexual Law Reform we were creating a battleground in which people were going to get hurt. But it had to be done. It seems to me that the Salvation Army should feel more responsible for this than I do. But I feel very responsible for it.”    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 21st May 2012 - 9:24pm

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