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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Dame Fran acknowledges heroes of Law Reform

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 31st December 2016

Newly-knighted Dame Fran Wilde has paid tribute to the gay men and their supporters who "risked everything" and "put everything" into the landmark 1985/86 campaign to decriminalise sexual intimacy between gay and bisexual men.

Dame Fran Wilde

Wilde's knighthood was announced this morning with a citation which lists the many public service positions she has held but singles out her work promoting the Homosexual Law Reform Bill for specific mention.

"The real heroes of Law Reform were the gay men who came out at the time," she says. "They came out at a time when they were criminals, when they could have been sacked from work or much worse than that. They risked everything. But it was critical that we had visibility so that people could realise that gay men were just ordinary New Zealanders and weren't a threat to civilisation."

She has also this morning acknowledged "people like Bruce Kilmister, Alan Ivory, Peter Wall, Bill Logan, Don McMorland, and a whole bunch of other people, in Wellington and Auckland particularly... they were critical for getting it through, they put everything into it."

And, she says, the passing of Law Reform paid dividends for many other groups in New Zealand society.

"I didn't realise it at the time but looking back it was New Zealanders taking stock of the sort of society they wanted and saying 'We don't want intolerance and stereotypes, we actually want a more accepting and open society' so it was fundamental to social change for us."

She says there were "many lows" during the campaign "but we just knew we had to go on. It got more and more compelling as the campaign went on... the AIDS epidemic was just starting so we certainly knew we had to decriminalise because we would not have got men presenting about that at health clinics. And all the women's rights that we had also struggled for were also in the sights of the fundamentalist Christians. It was imperative that we got it through."

"Many of my Parliamentary colleagues were pretty pissed off at me for forcing them to make a decision on it," she says. But if it hadn't worked out it would have been much worse for New Zealand because it would been a triumph of the fundamentalist Christians who were opposed to it... and therefore pretty ghastly for all sorts of issues."

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