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Honours for heroes and heroines of Law Reform

Tue 11 Jul 2006 In: Features

Wellington gays and lesbians who contributed to the Homosexual Law Reform campaign have been listed in a Roll of Honour presented at a celebratory cocktail party held on Sunday night. LGBT MPs, gay and lesbian activists, supporters including past Governor General Dame Cath Tizard, and a large number of younger gays and lesbians joined in celebration at the Prime Minister's official residence, Premier House, to mark the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. Gay MP Chris Carter started the event by reading PM Helen Clarke's congratulatory message, in which she expressed her disappointment in not being able to attend in person, due to family commitments overseas. Messages were also received from gay and lesbian politicians from around the world including Germany's openly gay Green MP Volker Beck, who was recently attacked by skinheads while attending Moscow Pride. Gay British entertainer Julian Clary sent a message saying he would love to find himself a New Zealand husband, if only he could understand the Kiwi accent. Bill Logan, the media face of the campaign for Law Reform, paid particular tribute to core members of the Wellington Gay Task Force for their contribution, including David Hindley (media advisor), Graham Russell (office manager), James Heslop (fundraiser) and Phil Parkinson (researcher). Logan talked of the challenges faced in the bringing together of an extraordinary coalition of activists, from “misogynist old men” to “lesbian activists.” He expressed gratitude to the Lesbian Coalition and the work of activists Alison Laurie, Pauline Simmons, Linda Evans and Tighe Instone. Alison Laurie, lesbian activist and academic, spoke of the courage of gays and lesbians who came out during the campaign, and noted one lesbian who marched alone through the streets of Dargaville in support of Law Reform. The audience cheered in recognition of the bravery of this anonymous woman. “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” cautioned Laurie, referring to the rise of Brian Tamaki, the still-smouldering Maxim Institute and “imported fundamentalists” who continue to threaten gay and lesbian rights. Tony Milne, Labour's candidate for the South Island electorate of Rakaia at last year's general election, represented the younger generation of gays and lesbians, delivering a speech of thanks to his forebears, and highlighting the work still to do. “Laws can't protect against homophobia,” Milne warned, referring to the climate of homophobic bullying still prevalent in New Zealand schools. He also noted the dire situation faced by gays and lesbians in countries in the South Pacific and the Middle East. Charles Chauvel, NZ's newest openly gay MP, paid a special tribute to Fran Wilde, the MP who championed Law Reform in Parliament. Chauvel drew attention to the prejudice widely faced by transgender New Zealanders. Tony Hughes, Research Director with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, reminded the audience of another more sobering anniversary on June 1 – the 25th anniversary of the first cases of HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles. He stressed the challenges remaining for New Zealand's LGBT community as rates of HIV infection continue to rise. Fran Wilde, the MP who sponsored Law Reform, talked of the generation of gay and lesbian activists who came before her, acknowledging their effort in laying the groundwork for successful Reform. “I was the right person in the right place at the right time,” she told the audience. Wilde acknowledged the work of fellow MP Judy Keall, in championing the Bill alongside her. The Roll of Honour includes a number of members of the LGBT community who have since died, including Daniel Fielding and Peter Cuthbert, of the Gay Task Force (GTF); Neil Costelloe, poster designer, also active with the GTF; Jack Goodwin, co-founder of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS); Tom Maclean, who worked at Wellington's Gay and Lesbian Community Centre; Stewart Ransom, Chair of the HLRS; Shane Town, educator and homophobia researcher, and many others nominated for their successful efforts. Organisers of the event, from Rainbow Labour and Wellington's GAP, encouraged people to add names to the Roll of Honour, and the final poster-sized document was presented to Linda Evans, curator of the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. LAGANZ will hold the Roll as a permanent record of the Wellingtonians who contributed to the success of Law Reform twenty years ago. David Parrish - 11th July 2006    

Credit: David Parrish

First published: Tuesday, 11th July 2006 - 12:00pm

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