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Out Here: Gay and Lesbian Perspectives VI

Chapter 1

‘We Blew Our Trumpets and…’
The ACT Homosexual Law Reform Society

Graham Willett

The formation of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) in Sydney in 1970 has long been regarded as the founding moment of the Australian lesbian and gay movement. And not without reason. Within a year of its foundation, it was a national organisation, with some 1500 members and branches in all states. It put the issues of homosexual law reform and public attitudes on the public agenda to an extent never before seen in Australia and any serious historical analysis must see the following decades of social, political and cultural struggle for gay equality and gay liberation as having their origins in that moment.

The Origins of the HLRS

But CAMP was not the first organisation to raise these issues. It was not even the second. Two other groups which preceded CAMP deserve to be acknowledged. The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), a lesbian group founded in Melbourne in late 1969 and recently discussed in an important new study by Liz Ross,1 was undeniably Australia’s first political organisation of homosexuals. But there was another group to consider. The Homosexual Law Reform Society of the Australian Capital Territory (HLRS) has not been much noticed in histories of gay politics in Australia, despite the fact that it was, when set up, the most public attempt by liberals to decriminalise male homosexual acts. This indifference is not, perhaps, all that surprising. The group was not a gay group as such – the sexuality of its members was never a matter of public discussion as was the case with CAMP and DOB; nor was it particularly interested in issues other than decriminalisation. Both of these factors mark it off from what was to become the gay and lesbian movement. It makes sense to think of the HLRS as being, in the words of one of its members, the end of a phase of reform politics – a phase located within the rise of modernising liberalism in Australia and of a politics centred on civil liberties and the activism of civil libertarians.2

This is especially clear when we look at the group’s origins, which lay in a discussion between Dr Thomas Mautner and Mr Dennis Rose in Canberra in 1969 on the subject, not of homosexuality, but of abortion law reform.3 Mautner was a lecturer in philosophy at the Australian National University, and a long-standing supporter of liberal humanist issues, who had been urged by Beatrice Faust to involve himself in the establishment of an abortion law reform group in Canberra. In the course of a conversation with Rose, discussion turned to a recent newspaper article in the Canberra Times concerning two men who had been arrested in a car in the bush and charged with indecent assault. Rose indicated to Mautner that there might be more to the case than met the eye and referred him to one man’s solicitor.4 At a subsequent meeting, Mautner, Michael Landale (the solicitor) and a journalist, Peter Sekuless, discussed the idea of forming a homosexual law reform society. (Sekuless had been approached by Landale after his client had been convicted to get some publicity for the proposed appeal.5) The next day a front page newspaper article announced a plan to form a homosexual law reform society.6 A public meeting was held on 27 July, attended by about 30 people, at which the society was formally established. It adopted four aims and elected a committee of seven which was to be responsible for drafting an ordinance to repeal the anti-homosexual provisions of the Territory’s legal code.7

The HLRS drew upon the well-established acceptance within liberal circles of an anti-criminalisation stance and it is this which is reflected in the work of the committee elected to prepare the ordinance. The committee (at least three of whom were lawyers) began with a study of the basic documents including the Wolfenden Report, a 1967 public opinion survey, as well as articles and editorials from the Medical Journal of Australia, the Australian Journal of Psychiatry and the Sydney Morning Herald.8 By the middle of October, under the leadership of Dr Des O’Connor of the ANU Law School, the draft ordinance and an accompanying submission had been prepared. The proposed law, guided by the British Sexual Offences Act of 1967, relied upon the notion of the consenting adult in private, but with two main differences from its British model: the age of consent was to be 18 rather than 21 and ‘private’ was not to be interpreted in the narrow sense of ‘in the presence of not more than two people’. Courts would be required to seek a medical opinion before passing any sentence of imprisonment upon a homosexual. The proposal was, then, considerably more liberal than its British model. Once drafted, the proposed ordinance was submitted for approval to a further public meeting, advertised as being open to both HLRS members and others who favoured liberalising the law, held on 15 October 1969.9

The HLRS then set out to bring its demands and arguments for reform to the attention of legislators and opinion makers. To help them with this, the committee undertook some public opinion research. This was intended to address the concern that ‘the main obstacle [to law reform] is… the belief of politicians that they would become unpopular if they introduced law reform’.10 The ‘Report of a Survey on Homosexuality’ by the Faculty of Law at ANU gives the results of a survey of 100 Canberra men undertaken by students. Of the 24 questions, 13 related to homosexuality and found, among other things, that 68% of those interviewed favoured decriminalisation. The research team concluded that ‘one thing seems certain – the Canberra public in general is in favour of homosexual law reform’.11

The Society also published three issues of a newsletter which had a national mailing list of about 130. The newsletter provided updates on progress, details of the draft ordinance, reports of lobbying activities and it encouraged supporters of law reform to write to the Attorney-General, Members of Parliament (MPs) and parliamentary candidates.12 Members of the committee also took up the debate in public. Mautner wrote one of three articles for a Canberra Times series on law reform, while the journalist Peter Sekuless (who, if not a member of the HLRS, was certainly an active supporter) prepared the other two.13 In the vigorous debate in the paper’s letters column, which began after the formation of the Society was announced, both Mautner and Grieve participated, responding to criticisms of the decriminalisation position.14 Mautner also addressed the Humanist Society in Sydney on 23 October 1969 and circulated his speech to the press.15

Even before they had completed work on the ordinance, members of the committee were able to report on their lobbying efforts. The second issue of the Newsletter listed those with whom the committee had consulted: the ACT Law Society, clergymen, members of the medical profession, members of the bench and the general public.16 Finally, sometime after forwarding the draft ordinance and associated papers, members of the committee met with the federal Attorney-General, Tom Hughes. This was a less than satisfactory experience. Hughes had clearly not read the submission and his adviser produced a string of ludicrous objections to the proposal along the lines of the Territory’s responsibility in loco parentis to the students at Duntroon military college.17

Aside from these activities by the HLRS, its committee and its members, the Society operated as a lightning rod for all those concerned with the issue of homosexual law reform. It was assisted in this by prominent articles by Don Aitkin in the Canberra Times, Henry Mayer in the Australian and Michael Richardson in the Age.18 All three writers spoke out strongly in favour of homosexual law reform, marshalling the by-then familiar range of liberal arguments. All reported the work of the HLRS and (except for Richardson) provided a contact address. The result was a wave of letters to the HLRS from people praising its efforts, offering support and proposing to set up branches or similar organisations in other cities. Although the committee’s view was that the state-based nature of anti-homosexual legislation made a national organisation impracticable,19 it offered considerable support to those interstate who expressed interest in organising similar groups locally. In Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, the committee provided a list of names and addresses to potential organisers.20 In Melbourne, people who had written to the HLRS met in October 1969. Carl Reinganum, a member of the Humanist Society who was present at this meeting, suggests that nothing came of it – that it petered out or was overtaken by events.21

The Humanist societies in various states were important supporters. The formation of the HLRS was reported both at meetings and in print. Humanist Societies in Sydney and Melbourne attempted to set up local law reform groups. At the meeting of 23 October 1969 that Thomas Mautner addressed, some members of the New South Wales branch decided to work as part of a small committee to ‘press for reform in NSW’.22 The committee, which first met in February 1970, was initially encouraged by the favourable publicity received by the ACT HLRS. Hoping to find ‘ten really dedicated people’, it was disappointed in a number of ways: it found that that the numbers involved in the committee actually declined over the next few months; there were no ‘legal, political or sociological experts willing to be active’; and, not least, perhaps, that ‘the people to whom this particular social change is of interest – i.e., the homosexual community – [did] not come forward in great numbers’. This, and the result of Wilson and Chappell’s 1967 survey which showed a mere 22% support for homosexual law reform among the public, led the committee reluctantly to the conclusion that, ‘the climate of opinion is clearly not ripe for change’.23 The Humanists in Melbourne had somewhat more success. In late 1969 or early 1970, a six person committee set up to ‘study and recommend what action should be taken to reform the law on homosexuality’ produced a five page pamphlet, The Homosexual and the Law – A Humanist View.24 In Brisbane a committee was set up in 1970 by the Queensland Humanists.25

There was little or no adverse reaction to the Society’s work. The Society’s papers contain no hostile correspondence and, overall, Dr Mautner was able to report to a correspondent in November 1969 that ‘it does appear as if there is virtually no opposition to the kind of law reform that we have in mind’.26 High levels of support were reflected in the debate in the letters column of the Canberra Times. Between 5 July (the day after the article announcing the intention to found the Society was published) and 13 August, some 20 letters on the subject of homosexuality and decriminalisation were published. Of these, 14 were in favour of decriminalisation, and six were opposed; and these six were written by only two different people.27 While this hardly represents a cross-section of the community, it must have struck readers that it was reasonable and common to have a pro-reform position.

Early Responses

In the medium term, significant public figures began to take up the question of law reform. In the churches, although no public statement from any authoritative body seems to have been issued, the Rev. R. W. Lawton, a minister of the Churches of Christ, called for decriminalisation in a radio broadcast, declaring forcefully that ‘[t]his churchman adds his cry of “shame” at the gaoling of consenting adults, and adds his cry for the repeal of legal prohibitions and penalties’.28 At the Anglican Synod on 12 August 1969, the Rev. K. Brewer of Canberra moved a motion condemning the law, only to have a motion to close the synod moved and passed. In response to radio reports of this episode, two other delegates dashed off letters to the Canberra Times to explain that the decision to close the synod related to a dwindling quorum and the lateness of the hour, rather than any opposition to the content of the motion.29

Several months later, on 27 May 1970, the federal Attorney-General, Tom Hughes, in an address to the national conference of the Australian Council of Social Services in Canberra, suggested that homosexual acts ought not necessarily to be within the ambit of the criminal law.30 (James Grieve scribbled a jokey note to Mautner on a copy of this speech – ‘Mon cher Thomas: Salut! As you see, we blew our trumpets and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down’; reflecting the optimism that the speech evoked.) Better was to follow: the next day editorials in the Canberra Times and the Age supported Hughes’ position and called for law reform.31 A few months later again Gough Whitlam, leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, declared his agreement with Pierre Trudeau’s dictum that ‘the courts have no place in the bedrooms of the nation’ and pledged his support for a free (that is, non-party directed) vote in the Parliament.32

Well into 1971, the group was actively seeking opportunities to make its case. Perhaps the most dramatic of these was the attempt to convene a meeting of interested members of the federal Parliament.33 In October 1971, Dr Mautner wrote to Bill Hayden, a prominent ALP frontbencher who had a long history of support for homosexual law reform. In his letter Mautner noted that the Melbourne Anglican Synod had recently voted for decriminalisation and suggested a briefing for interested MPs.34

Hayden responded favourably and called a meeting for the evening of Tuesday 2 November 1971. On that morning, however, the caucus executive discussed the issue of the meeting and Frank Stewart and Charlie Jones, prominent members of the Catholic wing of the party, expressed bitter hostility to the proposal. Hayden’s initial reaction was to go ahead anyway – in the absence of any party policy to the contrary, he saw no reason not to at least discuss the matter. Stewart and Jones demanded a special caucus meeting to thrash the issue out, and although this demand was rejected by the executive, the bitterness aroused was by now so intense that Hayden decided to call the meeting off. Stewart was a powerful figure in the New South Wales right and had friends in Queensland (Hayden’s home state) and may well have been able to make things difficult for Hayden.35 Moss Cass, when advised of the cancellation of the meeting and of the reasons for this, organised 11 members of the caucus to reissue Hayden’s original circular, convening the meeting for a week later than originally scheduled. Among the signatures were those of senior parliamentary figures such as Lionel Murphy, Jim Cairns and Tom Uren (all members of the caucus executive) as well as, the Daily Telegraph noted, four backbench doctors.36

Even then the controversy was not finished. On the evening originally scheduled for the meeting, Mautner and his fellow speakers, Moss Cass, Gough Whitlam and several other MPs were standing in King’s Hall when Frank Stewart (‘a bit under the weather’, as both Cass and Mautner recall) passed by. Approached by Cass to discuss the matter, and possibly invited to attend a meeting, he refused, red-faced with fury, any suggestion that he might sit in the same room as any ‘bum-fuckers’. In the subsequent exchange of views he threatened to punch Dr Mautner in the nose. Things were defused and a week later the meeting went ahead without incident.37 Indeed, James Grieve remembers it as a very productive meeting – attended by 18 ALP MPs, with a Liberal (Bob Solomon), who may have been defying a party decision not to attend, sitting away from the table at which the speakers and audience were seated. Mautner, Grieve and Elizabeth Reid presented the case for law reform, rehearsing, yet again, the nature of the draft ordinance and the state of public opinion.38

The Limits of Liberalism

In view of the overwhelmingly favourable immediate response to the demands of the HLRS and the apparent escalation of support over the following months, it comes as something of a shock to realise that homosexual law reform was not achieved in the ACT until 1976 – some seven years after the HLRS was established. By this stage, the Society itself had ceased to exist. Its activities had scaled down over the course of 1971 and the federal parliament furore had been something of a last gasp. In July of that year Dr Mautner described the group as ‘somewhat inactive’ but added that ‘individual members keep in touch with Members of Parliament to promote a reform of the law’.39 A few months later, James Grieve used the term ‘a rather dormant body’ to summarise its state.40

It is not as if the timing was wrong. It was very right indeed. On the very day that the Canberra Times reported the case of the two men arrested while having sex in a car, the federal Attorney-General was tabling in Parliament a report prepared that the Law Council had presented to him in February. The report proposed a Draft Criminal Code (DCC) for the ACT.41 Until this time, the ACT’s legal system still rested primarily upon those New South Wales laws which had been in force when the Canberra was established as a separate territory. Amendment of the laws was within the purview of the federal Minister for the Interior who had the power to amend by ordinance the way in which such laws applied in the Territory. This was widely felt to be unsatisfactory and in 1969 the Law Council of Australia had submitted, after five years’ work, a draft criminal code for the territories. In its introduction to the draft, the Co-ordinating Committee noted that:

We are aware that there are some areas of controversy with respect to the criminal law, particularly relating to homosexuality, abortion and suicide. We have not attempted to answer the problems raised by these controversies, the answer to which must depend upon a government’s appreciation of social conditions in the widest sense.42

This approach was endorsed by the Attorney-General when he tabled the report and sometime later by F. C. P. Keane, Special Magistrate in the ACT, who acknowledged that the Law Council’s Co-ordinating Committee had evaded these hard issues but argued that for it to have taken a stand on such controversial matters would have been a waste of time, because ‘there is no consensus of modern-trend thinking acceptable to all sections of the community on these issues’.43

The attempt to quarantine the DCC from political debate on these social questions failed entirely. If the immediate trigger for the formation of the HLRS was the prosecution of the man in the car, the DCC provided the focus for much of the public campaign. After all, if the ACT law was to be rewritten, this was the obvious time to decriminalise homosexuality. James Grieve makes the point that it was the co-incidence of the two events that was crucial:

it had all happened before; there had been many more scandalous, cruel, unjust and stupid prosecutions than this one, yet they had never aroused public indignation nor precipitated the formation of a law-reform society. But this case happened about the time when the Government had published, and invited comment on, the new code of criminal legislation that it intends to introduce.44

The opportunity took on a certain urgency once it was realised that, actually, the effect of the code was to broaden the scope of the acts that fell under the law’s sanction. The proposed offence of ‘sexual connection against the order of nature’ did not restrict itself to acts committed by men, thus opening the possibility that heterosexual couples could be prosecuted under its terms, and the vagueness of the formulation meant that behaviour that fell outside the established offences of buggery, attempted buggery and indecent assault on a male might be now offences.45 The DCC, then, was both trigger and target for much of the HLRS’ activism, pushing the general issue of the law and society onto the public agenda in a way that made the specific issue of homosexual law reform (and indeed a number of other issues that I have not addressed here) a relevant part of the debate.

Of course, the opportunity presented by the DCC occurred within the broader context of the rise of modernising liberalism. It was a shift that the HLRS was well-placed to take advantage of. The HLRS was at the centre of a complex web of liberal and humanist activists, of which its own founding process is merely one example: from Faust (whom Mautner had met in Melbourne at the time of the Ronald Ryan hanging, and who had herself been involved in support for the homosexual cause through her role as spokesperson for the lesbian group, DOB), to Mautner to Rose to Landale, is an interesting reminder of the way in which small networks of people could mobilise each other around political activity. So, too, is the Landale to Sekuless link.46 Mautner himself was, as James Grieve says, someone who knew everybody, including prominent figures in the ALP and the media, which provided an invaluable means for lobbying and publicising the issue. Most of the committee members were actively involved in public affairs, with Thomas Mautner and James Grieve having been involved in abortion law reform47 and two of the other members of the committee being prominent figures in the two main political parties – Landale in the Liberal Party, Gordon Walsh in the ALP.48

The Society also had very good contact with and support from the media. The Canberra Times had been ‘most generous in opening its columns for a detailed and penetrating discussion of the laws on homosexuality’49 with its six articles in July and August, as well as items on the formation of the Society and many letters. It also published a number of reviews by James Grieve of books regarding homosexuality.50 As Peter Sekuless notes, the editor of the Canberra Times, John Allen, was a Catholic who might have been expected to oppose aims of the HLRS. As a liberal, however, he was keen to have the Canberra Times operate as a paper of record and to have it reflect accurately what was happening in society.51 Michael Richardson, Canberra correspondent for the Age, was a keen supporter of editor Graham Perkins, who was pushing that paper into the liberal area of the market.52 Other newspapers, plus local and national radio and television coverage had also been important.53

All of which makes the failure of the HLRS to achieve its goal that much more surprising. But a welcoming political climate and even friends in high places are not, on their own, any guarantee of success. It is often assumed that decriminalisation would be an easy task, compared to the broader goals of shifting public opinion and overthrowing religious and medical paradigms. James Grieve wrote to the founders of CAMP in this vein in September 1970, declaring that CAMP’s task of changing public opinion and professional attitudes and policies would be ‘a much harder job’ and that ‘no doubt we shall succeed long before you do’.54

In fact, this was not the case at all. And the reason for this is that law reform rests on winning a particular group of people, who may or may not be susceptible to the efforts of the reformers. Public opinion is everywhere; and even the medical profession and the clergy are composed of large diverse groups of people in which pools of supporters and opponents could be identified and targeted. Activists could (and did) operate on many fronts, simultaneously and serially; moving around blockages towards opportunities. Legislators, on the other hand, are a relatively small, tightly-knit and somewhat cautious group. And legislation can only be enacted if a majority of them can be induced to support it. This places quite tight constraints on what a group of activists interested only in law reform can do.

In relation to homosexual law reform in the ACT the main obstacle was not any great hostility to the demand; it was the fact that, despite the pool of support within party political circles, the issue was simply not a pressing one for politicians. The earliest sign of this came with Tom Hughes’ unceremonious dumping of the issue. From his cautious but outspoken defence of the idea in May 1970 that homosexual acts ought not necessarily be within the ambit of the criminal law, he retreated rapidly. By September he renounced the idea entirely, declaring that he had been ‘kite-flying’ to test public opinion and had found more opposition than support.55 (Michael Richardson, of the Age, while not denying that there may have been a flood of hostile letters, saw the chief source of opposition to law reform as being members of the Liberal and Country parties.56)

The ALP, although having a better record of public support – in July, the Western Australian State Conference had passed a motion calling for law reform57 – turned out, in power, to be surprisingly dilatory; and, indeed, in the end, it actually failed to decriminalise at all. This despite early positive signs. On 18 October 1973, the House of Representatives voted in favour of a motion that read: ‘[t]hat in the opinion of this House homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should not be subject to the criminal law’. The motion was a private member’s bill moved by former Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton and seconded by ALP Minister for the Environment Moss Cass. A free vote (that is, one in which party discipline was not imposed) resulted in a 64–40 majority in favour of the motion.58

Cass was a long-standing supporter of liberal causes, including homosexual law reform.59 At the suggestion of his staff member, Peter Blazey, he decided to act on the issue and Prime Minister Whitlam was prepared to allow a law reform motion as a private members’ bill if a Liberal front-bencher were to co-sponsor it. John Gorton agreed to do so. The motion did not create much interest – Cass remembers little in the way of lobbying, for example – perhaps because it was not expected to pass at all60 and one of the surprises was the cross-party support that it got. Approached afterwards by Blazey, who noted the number of conservatives who had voted for the motion, Doug Anthony, the leader of the Country Party, laughingly declared that, ‘[y]ou Labor boys think you’re so trendy. But what you don’t realise is that a lot of us have been to boarding school!’61 While this may be part of the explanation, it is more likely that it was the appeal of liberal ideas, as embodied in the key speeches, that carried the vote. Certainly a significant bloc of the opposition came from the right-wing faction of the ALP, reflecting the conservative Catholicism of this group.62

This motion had been an expression of opinion only. Because the ACT was expecting self-government, Cass and Gorton agreed that they would not impose law reform, but merely state the Parliament’s view that such reform was desirable. The new ACT Legislative Assembly did not have its first sitting until October 1974, and so, in debating the issue on 2 December it was moving promptly on the matter.63 Unfortunately, it only had advisory powers at that stage and its debate resulted in a motion in favour of law reform, but no actual reform. The final bill for reform was only presented to the Assembly in May 1975 where it passed on 22 July.64 By the time the federal ALP government fell in November of that year the ordinance had still not been signed into law and in mid-1976 the whole process began all over again under a new Liberal Attorney-General, Bob Ellicott, who had not been happy with the earlier version.65 The final decriminalisation of male homosexual acts took place in November 1976.

In the end, the reform of the law in the ACT owed much to agendas other than those raised by the HLRS and the liberal humanist imperative. We can see this in the way in which it was argued for during the December 1974 Legislative Assembly debate. Certainly, the well-established liberal arguments were made,66 but they are supplemented, even over-shadowed, by a more parochial concern with the right of the Assembly to make social legislation. Susan Ryan, the mover of the December 1974 motion, argued at some length along the lines that:

There is no justification for elected members of Parliament from all over Australia formulating social legislation that affects the lives of the people living here [in Canberra]. We are a community. We are about to have self-government and this is the sort of area where I think we must, very speedily, move into legislation.67

Fully three-quarters of the Ryan speech was to do with this aspect of law reform, rather than with the merits of the case itself.

The HLRS had raised the issue of law reform, drafted an impressive proposal and lobbied successfully to elicit statements of support from significant numbers of influential people. It had put the issue of homosexual law reform on the public agenda; it had even undertaken the research to show that there was real public support for decriminalisation. But in the end, it lacked the capacity to overcome the relative insignificance of the issue to those who alone had the power to change the law. Its failure to carry through its task merely affirms that processes of social and political change are more complex – full of vagaries and chances – than a single organisation can necessarily deal with. It was the role of the social movement, which was emerging in the capillaries of society and which was to erupt in Sydney in July 1970, to show just what was required to carry through the reform of Australian laws and attitudes towards homosexuality.

Endnotes - Chapter 1

1 Liz Ross, ‘We Were Catalysts for Change’, Journal of Lesbian Studies, vol. 13, no. 4 (2009), pp. 442–458. See also, Lucy Chesser, ‘Australasian Lesbian Movement, “Claudia’s Group” and Lynx: “Non-Political” Lesbian Organisation in Melbourne, 1969–1980’, Hecate: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Women’s Liberation, vol. 22, no. 1 (1996), pp. 69–91.

2 On modernising liberalism, see, Graham Willett, Living Out Loud: A History of Gay and Lesbian Activism in Australia, St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin, 2000, ch. 1. The positioning of the HLRS within the politics of civil liberties was suggested by James Grieve in an interview 21 September 1995.

3 Unless otherwise noted, the information in this section comes from my interview with Dr Thomas Mautner in Canberra, 22 February 1995.

4 Apart from the harshness of the penalty inflicted upon the convicted man (the jury had recommended medical treatment; the judge had sentenced him to six months’ prison) the circumstances of the case were also somewhat odd. The Canberra Times article (‘Sentenced to Gaol’, Canberra Times, 14 May 1969, p. 8) noted in passing that two men had been found in the car and both had been interviewed; the trial and conviction, however, related to one man only. James Grieve published an article in Woroni, the ANU student newspaper, in October 1970 which claimed that one of the men had escaped prosecution because he refused to incriminate himself; the other, surprised by the police, blurted out ‘He touched me’, which was sufficient evidence to convict. James Grieve, ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, Woroni, 1 October 1970, n. p. [Clipping in HLRS Records]. Peter Sekuless has suggested that, given how isolated the road on which the arrested men had been, there were doubts raised as to how and why the police came to be there in the first place. Peter Sekuless, interview with Graham Willett, 28 March 1996.

5 Peter Sekuless, interview with Graham Willett.

6 ‘Moves on Homosexuality’, Canberra Times, 4 July 1969, p. 1. The article makes no mention of Sekuless’ involvement in the meeting, presumably for reasons of professional discretion on the reporter’s part.

7 ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, advertisement, Canberra Times, 23 July 1969, n. p. [Clipping in HLRS Records]; ‘Reform of Law Sought by New Society’, Canberra Times, 28 July 1969, p. 1; HLRS Newsletter, no. 1, 27 August 1969, p. 2; James Grieve, interview with Graham Willett.

8 Thomas Mautner, to Henry Mayer, letter, n. d. [first week August 1969]; Henry Mayer, to Thomas Mautner, letter, 5 August 1969, HLRS Records.

9 Advertisement, Canberra Times, 8 October 1969, n. p. [Clipping in HLRS Records].

10 Thomas Mautner, to Mrs L. M. Smith, letter, 17 November 1969, HLRS Records.

11 Faculty of Law, ANU, Report of a Survey on Homosexuality, typescript, n. d., MS2692, National Library of Australia (NLA). The survey was reported in ‘Homosexuals: Poll Swings Their Way’, Age, 24 September 1970, p. 5.

12 HLRS Newsletter, no. 1, p. 9.

13 Thomas Mautner, ‘Harming Those Who Cause No Offence’, Canberra Times, 8 August 1969. p. 2; Peter Sekuless, ‘The Odd Man Out in the Law’s Eyes’, Canberra Times, 6 August 1969, p. 2; Peter Sekuless, ‘The Homosexual in Australia’, Canberra Times, 7 August 1969, p. 2. Sekuless says that he was probably formally a member of the HLRS and that if he was not, it was only in order to protect himself from accusations of partiality. Peter Sekuless, interview with Graham Willett.

14 James Grieve, letter, Canberra Times, 1 August 1969; and, Thomas Mautner, letter, Canberra Times, 17 July 1969. Members of the HLRS did not generally identify themselves as such in their letters and the letters’ editor did not normally describe the correspondents. It may well be then that there were, among the other correspondents, other members of the Society, though none of the other members of the committee, whose names I know, are represented.

15 A summary of the points made in his address is to be found in the HLRS Records. The speech was reported in ‘Draft of Code Criticised’, Canberra Times, 24 October 1969, p.3.

16 HLRS Newsletter, no. 2, p. 2.

17 James Grieve, to Lena Stevens, letter, 2 January 1970, HLRS Records; Grieve, ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, n. p.

18 Don Aitkin, ‘Between the Lines’, column, Canberra Times, 9 July 1969, p. 2; Henry Mayer, ‘So Why Can’t Australia Modernise its Laws on Homosexuality?’, Australian, 21 August 1969, p. 7; Michael Richardson, ‘The Last Great Unmentionable’, Age, 9 August 1969, p. 7. Peter Sekuless notes that Richardson was a long-standing friend of Landale’s and worked to support the issue behind the scenes, as well as in the Age, drawing upon long-standing family links to the Canberra community. Peter Sekuless, Comments on draft of thesis chapter, 1997.

19 Thomas Mautner, to Peter Whyte, letter, 15 September 1969, HLRS Records.

20 For Melbourne, see, Thomas Mautner, to James Taylor, letter, 7 November 1969, HLRS Records; for Sydney, see, Dr J. Woolnough, form letter, to nine people, 27 January 1970, copy in HLRS Records.

21 Thomas Mautner, to Mrs F. Thompson, letter, 30 September 1969; Thomas Mautner, to James Taylor, letter, 7 November 1969, Correspondence File, HLRS Records. Carl Reinganum, interview with Graham Carbery and Rob Thurling, 16 April 1989, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA), transcript.

22 ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, Viewpoints, November 1969, n. p.

23 Dorothy Simons, ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, Viewpoints, June 1970, p. 47. See also later comment by F. C. Fuller, ‘Achievements of the HLR Committee’, Viewpoints, February 1972, pp. 13–14; and, a letter in reply by Dorothy Simons, Viewpoints, April 1972, p. 25.

24 Humanist Society of Victoria, The Homosexual and the Law – A Humanist View, Melbourne, 1970. On the committee, see, Victorian Humanist, February 1970, p. 2. There are two letters from Reinganum, writing on behalf of the Humanist Society of Victoria, to the HLRS discussing the committee’s work. Carl Reinganum, to HLRS, letters, one n. d., and one 5 January 1970. Correspondence file, HLRS Records.

25 ‘The Brisbane Link (Lynx)’, Camp Ink, vol. 1, no. 5 (March 1971), p. 7.

26 Thomas Mautner, to Mrs L. M. Smith, letter, 17 November 1969, HLRS Records.

27 Canberra Times, letters, 5, 9, 11–12, 15–19, 25–26, 29 July; 1, 4, 6, 12, 13, 15 August.

28 ‘Church Role on Homosexual Law Defined’, Canberra Times, 12 August 1969, p. 7. In the same article, an unnamed psychiatrist supported Mr Lawton’s stance.

29 (The Rev.) Neville Chynoweth, ‘Debate in Synod’, letter, Canberra Times, 16 August 1969, p. 2; T. R. J. Foster, ‘Debate in Synod’, letter, Canberra Times, 20 August 1969, p.‌2.

30 T. E. F. Hughes, Deviant Behaviour of a Criminal Nature, unpublished paper presented to the Sixth National Conference of the Australian Council of Social Services, Canberra, 27 May 1970. Newspaper reports include: Peter Sekuless, ‘Deviants Viewed More Liberally, Says Hughes’, Canberra Times, 28 May 1970, p. 1; ‘Attorney-General Considers a Change in Sex Law’, Australian, 28 May 1970, p. 3; ‘Homosexual Laws May be Liberalised says A-G Hughes’, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 28 May 1970, p.‌1.

31 ‘A Case for Change’, editorial, Canberra Times, 29 May 1970, p. 2; ‘In No Man’s Land’, editorial, Age, 29 May 1970, p. 7.

32 ‘Whitlam Wants Free Vote on Sex Law Reform’, Australian, 6 October 1970, p. 3; ‘No Party Line on Morals, Says Whitlam’, Age, 1 September 1970, p. 2. The importance of the free, or conscience, vote to the chance of success is emphasised by Dr Moss Cass who explained ‘Well, if it hadn’t been a free vote, the NSW right would have marshalled and we would never have been able to put the bloody thing in the first place. The only way you could get it up was as a free vote.’ Moss Cass, interview with Graham Willett, 7 June 1995.

33 The following is based upon newspaper reports, including, David Solomon, ‘Talk on Law Reform Cancelled’, Canberra Times, 3 November 1971, p. 3; ‘Labor Dispute to Recur’, Canberra Times, 5 November 1971, p. 3; ‘Playing the Early Election Card’, Nation Review, 5–12 November 1971; ‘ALP Move Stops Meeting’, SMH, 3 November 1971, p. 3; ‘Camp Meeting Called Off by ALP’, 3 November 1971 [Clipping in HLRS Records – I have been unable to locate the original source of this clipping. This article erroneously believes that the speakers were to have been from CAMP]; and on interviews with Thomas Mautner, James Grieve and Moss Cass.

34 Thomas Mautner, to Bill Hayden, letter, 12 October 1971, HLRS Records.

35 Moss Cass, interview with Graham Willett. Hayden himself has no recollection of the incident. Bill Hayden, interview with Graham Willett, 26 September 1995.

36 ‘New Move to Hear Reform Speakers’, Daily Telegraph, 5 November 1971, n. p. This article includes the text of the circular as well as a full list of signatories.

37 There was one final exchange of letters between Dr Mautner and Frank Stewart, in which Mautner requested a meeting to exchange views on the issue and Stewart refused. Thomas Mautner, to Frank Stewart, letter, 5 November 1971; Frank Stewart, to Thomas Mautner, letter, 15 November 1971, HLRS Records.

38 James Grieve interview with Graham Willett; Thomas Mautner, Proposal for Introductory Statement at Meeting at Parliament House, unpublished paper, HLRS Records.

39 Thomas Mautner, to Mrs J. Huggins, letter, 1 July 1971, HLRS Records.

40 James Grieve, to Mrs J. Capp, letter, 23 October 1971, HLRS Records.

41 ‘Territories Law Code Tabled’, Canberra Times, 15 May 1969, p. 3. There is a useful brief overview of the history of the DCC in Elizabeth Reid, ‘Drafting the Code of Repression’, Woroni [clipping in HLRS Records, n. d., pre-March 1972]. Reid had been a foundation member of the HLRS.

42 ‘Draft Criminal Code for the Australian Territories’, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Paper no. 44, 1969, p. 3.

43 F. C. P. Keane, ‘Repairing a Legal Patchwork Quilt’, Canberra Times, 29 July 1969, p. 2; F. C. P. Keane, ‘Some Ingenious New Approaches’, Canberra Times, 30 July 1969, p.2.

44 Grieve, ‘Homosexual Law Reform’, n. p.

45 Mautner, ‘Harming Those Who Cause No Offence’; Grieve, ‘Homosexual Law Reform’; Reid, ‘Drafting the Code of Repression’. It seems to me that it also opened the possibility of prosecution of lesbianism, though no-one at the time seems to have commented on this aspect.

46 Sekuless and Landale were friends and the court reporter–lawyer nexus provided occasional opportunities to support each other’s work. Peter Sekuless, interview with Graham Willett.

47 James Grieve, interview with Graham Willett. For the formation of the Abortion Law Reform Association in Canberra (including the election of James Grieve to the executive body) see, ‘Abortion Group Seeks Reforms’, Canberra Times, 17 September 1969, p. 15.

48 Thomas Mautner, to Henry Mayer, letter, n. d. [late July 1969], HLRS Records

49 HLRS Newsletter, no. 1, p. 5.

50 James Grieve, ‘A Book to Enlighten’, (review of H. Montgomery Hyde, The Other Love), Canberra Times, 20 June 1970, p. 13; James Grieve, ‘A Rough Descent’, (review of Ian Harvey, To Fall Like Lucifer), Canberra Times, 13 November 1971; James Grieve, ‘A Jolt For the Liberals’, (review of Dennis Altman, Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation), 2 September 1972. I am grateful to James Grieve for drawing these to my attention and for providing copies.

51 Peter Sekuless, interview with Graham Willett.

52 ibid.

53 HLRS Newsletter, no. 1, p. 5.

54 John Ware and Christabel Poll, to Thomas Mautner, letter, 8 September 1970; James Grieve, to John Ware, letter, 22 September 1970, HLRS Records.

55 ‘Homosexuality Reform is Off’, Age, 22 September 1970, p. 3; Michael Richardson, ‘Hughes’s Great About-Turn’, Age, 24 September 1970, p. 8. Peter Sekuless reports that he and Michael Richardson of the Age went to see Hughes after he made his initial comments and were surprised at his apparent backing away from his position. They came to believe that he had received a ‘roasting’ in the parliamentary caucus room from conservatives in both the Liberal and Country parties. The fear seems to have been that Canberra would be seen to be setting the pace nationally – a not unreasonable fear, given that this is precisely how the Whitlam government did use its control of the ACT. Sekuless, Comments on thesis draft, 1997.

56 Michael Richardson, ‘Hughes’s Great About-Turn’, Age, 24 September 1970, p. 8.

57 ‘Let Them Do It in Private: Labor’, Age, 25 July 1970, p. 8.

58 Unless otherwise noted what follows is drawn from my interview with Moss Cass. For the debate, see, Australian Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), House of Representatives, 18 October 1973, pp. 2327–2335.

59 As we have seen, when Bill Hayden had been forced to withdraw his support for the Parliament House meeting with the HLRS in 1971, Cass had stepped into the breach by co-sponsoring the meeting in Hayden’s stead. He was also an active supporter of the abortion law reform motion which was defeated in Parliament in 1973 and was dismayed and angered that not one Liberal had supported this motion. ‘Crabby’ in his own words, with the Liberals, he was interested in the suggestion made by a member of his staff that he could press the Liberals on their liberal credentials further by putting up a homosexual law reform motion. The staffer was Peter Blazey – gay, a supporter of gay liberation, but not yet out. It is a nice example of the way in which the movement, being everywhere, could have an impact at odd moments, creating its own opportunities, as well as those generated by others.

60 Gorton expected no more than eight or nine votes from Liberals and none at all from the Country Party; Cass thought that a majority of ALP members would vote against. Moss Cass, interview with Graham Willett.

61 Peter Blazey, ‘Big Quakes, Gay Shakes’, OutRage (March 1994), p. 59.

62 Lex Watson, ‘Please Sir, We’d Like Some More’, Campaign, vol. 3, no. 7, p. 3. One of those who voted against from this position was Paul Keating who, in the 1990s, as Prime Minister, was to actively intervene in Tasmanian state politics to subvert its anti-homosexual laws and to regulate to allow homosexuals to serve in the military.

63 Australian Capital Territory, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 2 December 1974, pp.‌102–113.

64 Law Reform (Sexual Behaviour) Bill, 1975; Explanatory Memorandum; Memorandum from Gordon Bryant, Minister for the Capital Territory, to the President ACT Legislative Assembly, no. 1975/57, 28 May 1975.

65 Lex Watson, ‘Old ACT HLR Saga’, Speaking Volumes, July – August 1976, n. p.; Lex Watson, ‘Federal Poofter Bashing Resumes’, Nation Review, 20 – 26 February 1976, p.‌466.

66 See, for example, Australian Capital Territory, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 2 December 1974, Mr Vivian (pp. 106–107), Mr Black (pp. 104–106), Mrs Kelly (pp.‌110–111).

67 Ms Ryan, Australian Capital Territory, Legislative Assembly, Hansard, 2 December 1974, p. 103.

Cite this chapter as: Willett, Graham. 2011. ‘"We Blew Our Trumpets and…". The ACT Homosexual Law Reform Society’, in Out Here: Gay and Lesbian Perspectives VI, edited by Smaal, Yorick; Willett, Graham. Melbourne: Monash University Publishing. pp. 1 –16.

Out Here: Gay and Lesbian Perspectives VI

   by Yorick Smaal, Graham Willett