One of the first gay couples to come out on Australian television have opened up about equality and discrimination in Australian history.

Peter de Waal and Peter Bonsall-Boone, known as Peter and Bon, have been together since 1966, when being gay was illegal and they could even face jail time for their relationship.

They came out in 1972 on ABC TV, six years before the first Sydney Mardi Gras, which was marked by riots and police violence.

This week they spoke to Ita Buttrose in a Studio 10 interview about how things have changed.

“I think we were very committed to bringing about some change, or being part of bringing about change,” said de Waal.

Following their historic televised kiss, Bonsall-Boone lost his job over being gay.

“I eventually got [another job],” he said. “I was asked if I thought I could get along with heterosexual people. I said, ‘Well, I think my mother and father are fairly heterosexual and we seem to have done all right so far.’”

The pair talked about how gay men were treated in Australia at the time their relationship began.

“We were potential criminals because gay sex or homosexuality in those days was a criminal offence if you were caught,” said de Waal.

“Up until about 1972 we were also potentially mad or insane, because the psychiatric guidebook still had homosexuality as an illness.

“It destroyed people’s lives.”

Bonsall-Boone was arrested twice for having gay sex.

“The charges against me have now been dropped,” he said. “I spend 58 years as a convicted criminal.”

The couple have just celebrated 50 years together and exchanged rings. They had hoped to be married to mark the occasion.

“I doubt that I will live long enough to see same-sex marriage,” said Bondall-Boone, who is now battling cancer.

“We are still second-class citizens, because we don’t have those equal rights that heterosexual couples have,” said de Waal.

“The simplest, cheapest, quickest and fairest way to resolve this inequality is a free vote in federal parliament now!”

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