WorldPride2023: 50th anniversary pivotal year of Gay Liberation


WorldPride 2023 in Sydney occurs on the fiftieth anniversary of a momentous year of Gay Liberation in Australia. The first gay and lesbian rights organisations only emerged in the previous four years. However, by 1973, Australia’s gay liberationists by outing themselves, protesting and lobbying were able to garner public support from church leaders, the media, unions, politicians, and the general public.

Gay rights movement ‘blossomed’ in 73

Indeed, Denis Freney, early gay activist and journalist for the Communist Party’s Tribune, could already mourn the death of the Gay Liberation movement in 1975.

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“The homosexual rights movement in Australia blossomed in 1973, only to decline in 1974.”

9 January

Canberra Times editorial demands the federal Attorney-General address “the disgraceful persecution of consenting adult homosexuals.”

22 January

Two Australian National University academics present a paper predicting an increased acceptance of homosexual marriage over the next decade. Nice try fellas, but no cigar!

5 February

Despite the accused murderer’s attempt at a ‘gay panic defence’, a Sydney jury convicts William Russell of murder.

21 March

An article in the Women’s Weekly declares Liberace completely dwarfs “the current rage of the pop scene, Elton John.” Further, the magazine states definitively, “He is not a homosexual.” (Liberace, not Elton.)

4 April

Surgeon and Liberal member of the Queensland Parliament, Dr. Arthur Crawford suggests brain surgery as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality. Newspapers of the day do not mention if Arthur found a cure for his own affliction – talking out of his arse.

16 April

Speaking to students, including a representative of a student newspaper after a speech at the Australian National University, former Prime Minister Billy McMahon proved rather more forthcoming than usual, particularly when asked to give his opinion of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Whitlam, according to McMahon, called him a ‘notorious homosexual from Kings Cross’ and a ‘c*nt’.

“I can’t be both,” claimed Silly Billy.

gay liberation 1973
McMahon speaks with Corporal Colin King during a visit to Malaysia

16 May

Dr. Moss Cass, Minister for Conservation and Environment announces his search for a senior Liberal to co-sponsor a bill abolishing some acts of homosexuality in the ACT.

21 May

Anglican Primate of Australia declares support for homosexual law reform. Further, the Most Reverend Dr. Woods declares homosexual promiscuity no worse a sin than heterosexual promiscuity.

4 June

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The Congregational Union of Western Australia resolves to discuss one of their ministers “marrying” homosexuals.

19 June

The Builder’s Laborers’ Federation (BLF) place a Pink Ban on the construction of Robert Menzies College at Macquarie University. They refuse to complete the building until the university reinstates suspended gay student Jeremy Fisher.

The college suspended Jeremy after discovering Gay Liberation badges in his room while he was hospitalised.

Eventually, the college relented and offered Jeremy his room back, but with the point made, he refused it.  Afterward, he continued his activism and is a 78er. He enjoys a sterling career as a writer and academic.

30 July

An ASRB poll shows 39% of Australians think homosexuality is either wrong or very wrong, 28% are neutral and 29% think it either right or very right.

That shows a marked improvement from just two years before when 48% saw homosexuality as wrong or very wrong and only 25% saw it as right or harmless. Support for homosexuality was greater among women, tertiary-educated and younger people. Not surprisingly, Catholic, Methodist, and non-metropolitan voters were least inclined to support homosexuality.

7 August

Gay liberationists disrupt a psychiatric conference. They egg organiser Professor McConaghy, the most prominent Australian practitioner of ‘aversion therapy’.

They also distribute leaflets explaining that after failed attempts to engage with McConaghy, they are no longer prepared to debate their oppressors.

“Your profession invented the idea that homosexuality is a form of mental illness,” says a spokesperson for Gay Liberation.

September

Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide hold Gay Pride weeks with demonstrations, rallies, picnics, and dances.

gay liberation
Gay Pride Week Poster, Melbourne, 1973

12 September

‘Militant’ gay libbers ‘zap’ institutions which oppress gays. Richard Jessop offered passers-by sliced sheep brains outside the Macquarie Street surgery of Dr. Harry Bailey who offered a gay ‘cure’. A decade later, a Royal Commission connected Bailey’s ‘Deep Sleep Therapy’ with 85 deaths. Bailey committed suicide during the investigation.

gay liberation
Richard Jessop offering sliced sheep’s brains outside the office of a quack who performed ‘brain surgery’ on homosexuals.

15 September

When Sydney police violently attack a dozen homosexual demonstrators, builders on a work site assist the demonstrators by tipping water on the cops.

18 October

The Federal House of Representatives passes a motion that “in the opinion of this House,  homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should not be subject to criminal law.”

Former Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton accepted Dr. Moss Cass’s invitation to move the private member’s bill which Cass then seconded.

Not all Labor members supported the bill. However, support came from unexpected quarters with sufficient members of the Liberal and Country (National) Parties supporting the bill to see it pass 64 votes to 40.

gay liberation
Sir John Gorton

22 October

The Venerable Neville Chynoweth, Anglican Archdeacon of Canberra told the Canberra Times that neither adultery nor homosexuality should be crimes.

“To use a comparison with adultery, a single act of adultery can be more damaging than a single homosexual act.”

21 November

Bill to liberalise laws on homosexuality in South Australia defeated due to the absence of one Labor member.

28 November

The Melbourne conference of the Australian Council of Churches called on state governments to decriminalise homosexuality.

In a statement, the conference said that many false ideas about homosexuality originated from the Judeo-Christian moral tradition.

“Biblical writers did not have the psychological and scientific knowledge available to the Christian today.”

6 December

Bill to allow homosexual acts in private by consenting adults passes Western Australia’s Legislative Assembly. However, with the parliamentary session ending ahead of an election, the bill never makes it to the upper house.

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