WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER…AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO THE MAINLAND!

Today, 1 May 2017, marks twenty years since homosexual acts were finally decriminalised in Tasmania, through a bill finally passed through their upper house, the notoriously reactionary Legislative Council. During the Nineties, gay activists fought an epic battle for nearly a decade, in order to bring an end to these laws. Sometimes fighting against seemingly impossible odds, they never gave up.
These were the laws, in the Tasmanian Criminal Code, 1924:

122. Any person who –
(a)   has sexual intercourse with any person against the order of nature;
(b)   has sexual intercourse with an animal;
(c)   consents to a male person having sexual intercourse with him or her against the     order of nature,
is guilty of a crime
Charge: Unnatural sexual intercourse.

123. Any male person who, whether in public or in private, commits any indecent assault upon, or other at of gross indecency with, another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with himself or any other male person, is guilty of a crime.
Charge: Indecent practice between male persons.
(Morris 1995, pp6-7)

‘This law had destroyed men’s lives’ {Brown 2014}. He and other gay men campaigned against the laws, with a courage and strength that defies all negative stereotypes about them. However, they were not the only ones who took this side in the argument. There were those with a commitment to human rights, for whatever reason, and those who simply regarded the laws as an anachronism by the end of last century. This was particularly true if they lived in other states, or countries, where their sodomy laws had been abolished.

There was another side to the debate, who presented their arguments vociferously. These were arguments such as that of Chris Miles, a politician and Baptist lay preacher, who claimed: ‘homosexuality was not acceptable in any society, let alone a civilised one’ {Morris 1995, p35}. He clearly was not a scholar in Classic Greek History. Then there was the gem from Jack Breheny, the Ulverstone councilor, whose comparison hardly flattered either, with ‘representatives of the gay community are no better than Saddam Hussein’ {Sainty 2016}.
Then there was George Brookes, a leading campaigner to retain Sections 122 & 123, and a member of the Legislative Council, whose views were not atypical. For a law that already carried 21 years’ prison time, about 7 years longer than it ever had in any other state, he stated: ‘I believe we ought to be tightening up the laws, making them a little more drastic . . . and maybe we would influence a few more of them to take the plane north’ {quoted in Milliken 1992}.

The gay activists would counter this with the memorable slogan: ‘We’re here, we’re queer. . .and we’re not going to the mainland’ {Croome @ Fidler 2011}.

 

 

WORKS CITED

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/how-a-tasmanian-gay-rights-battle-influenced-the-world-20140412-zqt2p.html

 

 

 

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