Commemorative Tasmanian gay UN panel unveiled


Margaret Reynolds Commemorative Panel
Image: Equality Tasmania

Former Senator Margaret Reynolds unveiled a commemorative panel in Hobart on Thursday on the 30th anniversary of the United Nations’ condemnation of Tasmania’s anti-gay laws.

The United Nations condemnation serves as one of the great landmarks of LGBTIQA+ rights reform. The decision marked the first time in world history the UN had declared that LGBTIQA+ rights are human rights.

Tasmanian Law Reform

In 1994, Tasmania remained the lone Australian state to still criminalise gay sex. It also had the harshest penalty in the Western world — 21 years.

The UN condemnation resulted from a human rights complaint brought by Tasmanian activist Nicholas Toonen. Consequently, the Keating federal Labor government passed a law prohibiting laws that interfered with the sexual conduct of adults in private.

Nicholas Toonen and then partner Rodney Croome then applied to the High Court on the basis that the federal law overrode Tasmania’s anti-gay laws.

As a result, Tasmania finally decriminalised gay sex in 1997.

Margaret Reynolds

margaret reynolds commemorative panel
Rodney Croome and Margaret Reynolds at the unveiling. Image: Equality Tasmania

Former senator Margaret Reynolds unveiled the commemorative panel at the Salamanca Arts Centre, where the UN decision was announced.

On April 11th 1994, the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (now Equality Tasmania) announced that the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) had condemned Tasmania’s laws against homosexuality as a breach of international human rights.

Margaret Reynolds reflected during the ceremony on the importance of the UN decision in Tasmania and globally.

She also spoke of her role in advocating for the then Keating Federal Government to take action in response to the decision.

“Tasmanians should be proud that we helped change the world for the better,” she said.

Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome also spoke.

“The UNHRC decision not only led to decriminalisation in Tasmania, but has helped prompt reform in many other countries, freeing tens of millions LGBTIQA+ people from criminal stigma.”

“The decision also illustrates the importance of human rights charters in advancing the movement for LGBTIQA+ equality, and reminds us about the need for Tasmanian and Australian Human Rights Acts.”

Afterwards

The UN decision led directly to overriding federal legislation, a High Court challenge against the offending Tasmanian laws, the intervention of Amnesty International and a national boycott of Tasmanian products.

Together with many years of grassroots campaigning, the UN decision led to the repeal of Tasmania’s anti-gay laws in 1997 and Tasmania’s subsequent adoption of some of the world’s most comprehensive LGBTIQA+ discrimination, relationship and gender recognition laws.

The UN decision also contributed to the Federal Government’s recognition of same-sex de facto relationships and its prohibition of sexuality and gender identity discrimination.

Globally, the Tasmanian UN decision has been critical to overturning anti-gay laws in a number of other countries including India, Singapore, Fiji, Cyprus, Botswana, Barbados and Belize.

margaret reynolds commemorative panel
Image: Equality Tasmania

For decades, he’s been at the heart of Tasmanian and Australian law reform:

University of Tasmania awards Rodney Croome honorary doctorate.

Activist Rodney Croome pens moving letter to younger self.

Rodney Croome met with arresting officer from 1988 gay rights photo.

 

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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