Former Democrats Senator Sid Spindler died Saturday after a long battle with liver cancer aged 75. Brian Greig remembers his colleague as a champion for gay rights.

Victorian Democrat’s Senator Sid Spindler served only six years in the job before stepping down. Yet, in that short time he made his mark, most particularly with gay and lesbian rights. Or human rights as he would have called it.

Sid was the first parliamentarian to speak out against the military ban on homosexual personnel, eventually embarrassing the Keating Government into lifting it in 1992.

In 1996 he introduced the first national Sexuality Anti-discrimination Bill into parliament, which then triggered a one year senate committee enquiry taking submissions from around the country and holding hearings in every capital.

The report this committee produced was very valuable in teasing out the issues, flushing out the homophobes, educating MP’s and pointing to the action needed for reform. Sid consulted tirelessly with gay community leaders over the Bill, and is the reason I joined the Democrats.

The Spindler Bill , as it became known, has been the touchstone of every subsequent legislative attempt at reform and is the precursor to the Bill currently brewing in the office of federal Attorney General Robert McClelland.

Of course there was much more to Sid to than his gay advocacy. His record was one of human rights, justice, fairness and equality across a whole spectrum of humanity, including Aborigines, refugees, pensioners and prisoners. But for our community he was often a lone voice in a hostile place and well before his time.

Sid would have found it amusing that he died on the night of Mardi Gras. He marched in the parade in 1999 under the banner of keeping the Bastards Glamorous, and I know that when the 58 HREOC Reforms pass the senate later this year, Sid’s voice will be calling Aye from the heavens.

He is survived by his wife Julia and four children. The Commonwealth momentum he started on sexuality law reform lives on too. Thanks Sid.

Brian Greig was the Democrat Senator for WA 1999-2005.

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