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Salient. Official Newspaper of the Victoria University Students' Association. Vol 41 No. 9. April 24 1978

Gay Rights

Gay Rights

Easter 1978 saw the largest Gay Rights Conference ever held in New Zealand. In the opening address of the two day event, held at Victoria University, Judith Emms, (past coordinator of the National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand) procaimed that "we must no longer rely solely on the 'liberality' and 'fair mindedness' of others to win equality for Gay people. It is time now, not to demand of others, but to get out and take action ourselves." She whet on to assert that "no methods should be used in the short term by the Gay Movement which might compromise its aims of freeing people from stereotyping and strait-jacket gender roles."

A feeling of "Gay Community" developed within hours and was reflected in the willingness of people to "come out" on television. This feeling grew in the workshops which covered topics from Gay Welfare, Coming Out, Older Gays, and Gays Outside the Main Centres to the Politics of Being Gay, Gays and Other Minorities and Sexism and Sex stereotyping.

Some of the recommendations to come out of the workshops were: that the Gay Movement should begin to use its power against anti-Gay businessmen by boycotts and publicity; that the Gay Movement's greatest allies are other oppressed minority groups, and we should begin to lay the groundwork for mutual cooperation.

The strategy for promoting Gay Rights as an issue in the country's Parliamentary elections this year was discussed by the Conference during the afternoon session, Sunday 26th March.

The climax of the conference came with the closing address by Robin Duff, (1978 coordinator of the National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand). Mr. Duff expressed a "cautious optimism" over the growing acceptance of Gay liberalism and warned of overseas trends which show a hardening of the opposition to Gay Rights. In the United States, there is a swing towards repressive legislation since the Anita Bryant anti-Gay campaign. "Just as the pendulum has swung one way in its liberalism, so too can it swing back."

Mr. Duff went on to launch the largest fundraising campaing ever seen in the New Zealand Gay Movement. The money raised will be used to fight for Gay Rights in various ways with particular emphasis on the campaign during the Parliamentary elections.

Following this address there came spontaneous calls from the floor of the Conference for a march on Parliament to protest at the state of Gay Rights. New Zealand still has repressive laws against male homosexual acts, and in 1977 Parliament rejected any suggestion that homosexual persons should be included in the human rights legislation then being considered. Although the march was on Easter Sunday while politicians were on holiday, the marchers felt it was worthwhile because "if you are discriminated against, you can't ever take a holiday from that discrimination."