30 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW
TODAY marks 30 years since the decriminalisation of homosexual sex was passed through NSW Parliament on May 22, 1984.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby reflected on the anniversary, looking back at how far the state and the country have come on issues affecting LGBTI people.
“It is remarkable to think that within a generation, we have gone from criminals to a situation today where we are on the verge of legislative equality for gay and lesbian people and their families,” NSW GLRL co-convenor Justin Koonin told the Star Observer.
“People like Lex Watson and Robert French led the way, but there were many others, and we can be incredibly grateful for the courage and conviction they showed.”
Koonin also said there was a long way to go to address the discrimination faced by many in the LGBTI community on a daily basis, and to overcome the legal barriers still remaining.
“At a legislative level, religious exemptions and marriage equality remain significant goals. Legislative change on its own is not enough though, and the work in changing the hearts and minds of the people of Australia will continue even once all the laws have changed,” he said.
Then-Labor Premier Neville Wran introduced a private member’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality in 1984, and the bill was passed with a conscience vote on both sides of parliament.
The vote faced opposition from some Labor MPs and received the support of some Liberal Party MPs, including then-Opposition Leader Nick Grenier.
The bill was assented to on June 8 1984. Wran’s bill did not equalise the age of consent, which remained 18, two years older than for heterosexual or lesbian sex, until 2003.
The origins of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras were also bound up in the fight for decriminalisation, with the city’s gay rights activists staging a protest march in 1978 to commemorate New York City’s Stonewall Riots in 1969.
The march was repeated annually, and eventually became the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.