Last edited: July 11, 2004

Ex-MP: We’ve Moved On

New Zealand Herald, June 19, 2004
P.O. Box 32, Auckland, New Zealand
Fax: +64-9-373-6421

By Helen Tunnah, Deputy Political Editor

Almost 20 years on, the woman vilified for leading the liberalisation of homosexual law cannot understand why there is such a fuss over civil unions.

Fran Wilde was pilloried for spearheading the 1985 Homosexual Law Reform Bill.

The 16-month debate about the bill polarised the country, and sparked violent demonstrations and angry rallies at Parliament.

Ms Wilde told the Weekend Herald she is writing a book reliving the emotions of the battle to overturn the law which made sexual acts between men illegal.

It will recount the bomb and death threats she received, the hate mail she labels “filth” but also the courage of those in the gay community who spoke out publicly.

Virulent opponents included the so-called “moral majority” which Ms Wilde condemned as representing a fundamentalist Christian view opposed not only to gay rights, but also to women’s and workers’ rights.

She and supporters enlisted the help of moderate churches to combat an advertising campaign that claimed families were at risk, teenage boys would be sodomised and Aids would sweep the country.

The scene at Parliament as a petition purportedly signed by 800,000 people asking that the bill be thrown out was reported as resembling Nazi Germanywith its flag-waving, children in brigade uniforms and national anthem singing.

Ms Wilde admits she was frightened. “It was quite scary stuff that day because here was the face of bigotry right there in front of Parliament. The MPs were quite spooked by that sort of thing in New Zealand.”

Now she predicts a more tolerant society will accept civil unions.

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