By Max Tillman
The University of Tasmania has awarded LGBTIQ activist Rodney Croome AM with an honorary doctorate of letters for his work in gay and lesbian law reform.
In a ceremony last Thursday, the former National Director of Australian Marriage Equality was recognized for over three decades of activism in advancing the legal rights of gay and lesbian communities in both his home state and across Australia.
In a Facebook post, Croome described the award as a “profound honour”, and highlighted the great strides Tasmania has made over the last quarter-century in awarding equal rights to LGBTIQ communities, since decriminalising homosexuality in 1997.
“It was an honour to speak about how Tasmania transformed itself on LGBTIQ human rights,” Croome said. “To see so many young people have their years of hard work recognised, and to meet some of the LGBTIQ graduates who are dedicated to fostering a better Australia.”
Croome was raised on a dairy farm in Tasmania’s north-west but made a name for himself as a student activist at the University of Tasmania. He gained national attention during a demonstration with The Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group at Hobart’s Salamanca Markets in 1987, at a time when State law punished homosexuality with up to 25 years in prison.
Croome took the Tasmanian government to the High Court in 1997 in the landmark Croome v Tasmania case, to argue that the State’s homosexuality laws were inconsistent with federally enshrined rights.
Despite attempts to have the case quashed, Tasmania was forced to repeal its Criminal Code and legalise homosexuality.
Croome was one of the earliest advocates for same-sex marriage in 2004, and would dedicate the next thirteen years of his life to achieving marriage equality for all Australians.
In a post on his personal Facebook page, Croome acknowledged the work of others within the LGBTIQ community in combatting discrimination, and the difficulties that still confront many within the broader community.
“It was an honour to spend a few minutes with those who are still struggling with the prejudices of others,” he wrote. “But it wasn’t the only one. It was an honour to have my partner, my mother and my close friends there.”
Croome thanked the University of Tasmania for its role in advancing the state’s human rights record and providing a platform for LGBTIQ activism since Croome’s time as an undergraduate.
“It was an honour to be recognised by an institution as august, inclusive and community-minded as the University of Tasmania.”