A Leader Arises

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Global Panorama

An amazing day in the Victorian Parliament. In delivering an apology for the past treatment of gay men, Premier Daniel Andrews went above and beyond what anyone expected. Hard to believe this man used to be dismissed as a dull uninteresting party apparatchik.

Click here for the speech in full

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He might have been expected to say that the old laws that made gay people criminals were a product of their time, but he was having no excuses. In a full-on, take-no-prisoners speech, he bluntly named the driving animus.

Over the course of decades, a powerful prejudice was written into law.

A prejudice that ruined lives.

A prejudice that prevails in different ways, even still.

That law was written in our name – as representatives, and as Victorians.

And that law was enforced by the very democratic system to which we call ourselves faithful.

Click here for the speech in full

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And this was just his opening paragraph! He went on to express incredulity over the entrapment of gay men by “pretty policemen”, and the incredibly flimsy and indefensible law that made it possible.

When we began this process, Speaker, I expected to be offering an apology to people persecuted for homosexual acts.

But it has become clear to me that the State also persecuted against homosexual thought.

Loitering for homosexual purposes is a thought crime …

And in one summer in 1976, in one location alone, one hundred men were targeted under this violation of thought; something for which there was no possible defence.

… all in our lifetimes, Speaker.

In our name.

Young people. Old people. Thousands and thousands of people.

Click here for the speech in full

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Most surprising of all, he made no excuses for the past. No references to how things were different then, about the ignorance of the lawmakers, about the standards of the time. Instead he confessed himself quite unable to understand where these people were (and as we well know, in some cases still are) coming from.

I suppose it’s rare when you can’t even begin to conceive what was on the minds of our forebears in this Place.

But I look back at those statutes and I am dumbfounded.

He went on to explain how we are still living in the shadow of that prejudice and bigotry.

Yes, the law was unjust, but it is wrong to think its only victims were those who faced its sanction.

The fact is: these laws cast a dark and paralysing pall over everyone who ever felt like they were different.

The fact is: these laws represented nothing less than official, state-sanctioned homophobia …

And we wonder why, Speaker – we wonder why gay and lesbian and bi and trans teenagers are still the target of a red-hot hatred.

We wonder why hundreds of thousands of Australians are still formally excluded from something as basic and decent as a formal celebration of love.

And we wonder why so many people are still forced to drape their lives in shame.

You can read the speech in full – click here. The full video is below. Thank you, Mr Andrews. Thank you very much indeed.

 

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)