In what is believed to be an Australian first, an Australia Day honour has been awarded partly in recognition of work in the area of lesbian and gay law reform.

ACON chief and New Mardi Gras co-chair Stevie Clayton was awarded the medal in the general division (OAM or Medal of the Order of Australia) for contributions through the process of gay and lesbian law reform, in the field of anti-discrimination and in the areas of safety, welfare and health including HIV/AIDS.

Clayton was nominated for the award by her friend John Marsden, and told Sydney Star Observer she negotiated with the Australia Day awards committee for the words gay and lesbian to be included as part of her citation.

I’m not particularly interested in awards for myself, Clayton said. But I wanted the words to be in there to send a message that working for gay and lesbian law reform is part of working towards the greater good of society.

The inclusion of the words also helped create the perception that the gay and lesbian community was part of the broader society rather than separate to it, Clayton said.

Human rights campaigner Rodney Croome, who will today receive a Centenary Medal from the Governor of Tasmania for his own work in gay and lesbian law reform, said Clayton’s honour was well deserved.

It’s immensely important because it acknowledges our place within the Australian community at a time when we’re being increasingly marginalised in political and cultural life, Croome said. It’s a small but important step in the other direction.

Croome said in the past he and Clayton had disagreed over many things but, he said, I take my hat off to the work that she’s done.

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