A bittersweet look at where we've been, how far we've come, and how far we've got to go.
By
Ben Winsor

12 Aug 2016 - 3:07 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2017 - 3:39 PM

1533 – Britain passes The Buggery Act outlawing anal sex and bestiality. 

1788 – The British colonise Australia and import their legal system, including anti-homosexual laws. It's uncertain how various Indigenous nations dealt with LGBT+ individuals prior to colonisation.

1901 – Australia federates. State and territory governments adopt variations of the UK's anti-homosexual laws.

1949 – Victoria downgrades anal-sex from a crime punishable by death to a crime punishable by 20 years imprisonment.

1968 – Homosexual Law Reform Society forms in Canberra.

1970 – Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP) forms in Sydney, later forms branches in other states.

1971 – Society Five, gay rights group, forms in Melbourne.

1972 – SA Police kill a gay academic by throwing him into the Torrens River. This focuses attention in the state on gay rights and police violence. The Advertiser newspaper calls for reform.

1972 – SA legislates that it will be a defence to the crime of anal sex if it is committed in private between persons above 21 years of age.

1975 – SA decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. The age of consent is equalised.

1975 – Police raid the home of a Victorian gay couple and interrogate them. They are charged with committing homosexual acts and deported to South Australia.

1976 – ACT decriminalises male acts of homosexuality.

1976/77 – Police in Victoria arrest more than 100 men for homosexuality over in a summer law enforcement campaign, which includes sending police to pose as homosexuals to entrap offenders.

1978 - Police in Sydney arrest 53 people at the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

1980/81 – Victoria decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. A common age of consent is set at 18 years of age.

1982 – NSW becomes the first state in Australia to pass laws prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals. However, male acts of homosexuality remain illegal for another two years.

1982 – Australia sees its first reported case of HIV/AIDS; decriminalisation takes on a public health focus.

1983 - NT decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. The homosexual age of consent is set at 18 while the heterosexual age remains 16.

1984 - NSW decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. The homosexual age of consent is set at 18 while the heterosexual age remains 16.

1985 - Queensland passes legislation banning bars from serving alcohol to "perverts, deviants, child molesters and drug users," a group likely intended to include homosexuals. 

1985 - ACT equalises ages of homosexual and heterosexual ages of consent. 

1990 - WA decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. The age of consent is 21 for homosexuals and 16 for heterosexuals. It becomes an offence to "promote or encourage" homosexual behaviour or any primary or secondary school.

1990 - Sodomy decriminalised in Queensland, age of consent remains at 18 (16 for oral and vaginal intercourse).

1992 – The gay panic defence succeeds in downgrading a murder charge to manslaughter, believed to be the first case of its kind in Australia. It's followed by more than 10 similar cases in NSW alone over the next few years.

1992 – The Keating Labor government removes the ban on same-sex attracted men and women serving in the military, despite opposition from defence groups, the Liberal Party and Keating's own Defence Minister.

1994 – Nicholas Toonen complains to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that Australia's remaining anti-sodomy laws and, by extension, differing ages of consent, are a breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He loses his job after the Tasmanian government says that unless he is fired from the Tasmanian AIDS Council, they will withdraw funding. The Committee finds that Australia is in breach of its treaty obligations.

1994 – The Keating Labor government passes the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act to over-ride all state and territory legislation pertaining to sexual conduct for consenting adults above the age of 18.

1997 - Tasmania formally decriminalises homosexuality. Ages of consent are equal at 17 years of age. Some defences remain available for intercourse at a younger age, but do not apply in cases of anal sex.

1997 – The gay panic defence is upheld by the High Court of Australia.

2003 – NSW formally equalises the age of consent at 16 years of age.

2003 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee finds Australia in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for denying a veteran's pension to same-sex spouse. 

2003 – Tasmania abolishes the gay panic defence.

2004 – The Northern Territory equalises ages of consent to 16.  

2004 – ACT legislates to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

2004 – ACT abolishes the gay panic defence.

2004 – The Howard Liberal government amends the Marriage Act to explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marriage. Marriage is defined as the "union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

2005 – Victoria abolishes the gay panic defence

2005 – The Australian Defence Force extends equal benefits to same-sex families.

2006 – The Northern Territory abolishes the gay panic defence.

2007 – The Howard Liberal government announces plans to ban same-sex adoption nationwide. This never eventuates due to Labor's election victory.

2008 – Western Australia abolishes the gay panic defence

2009 – The Rudd Labor government passes legislation to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from 85 federal laws relating to areas such as tax, veterans affairs, social security and health.

2010 – NSW legislates to allow same sex couples to adopt.

2011 – The Gillard Labor government passes passport legislation allowing for an 'x' gender option, and the ability for transgender people to select their gender without medical intervention.

2012 – The Gillard Labor government announces it will begin providing 'Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage' to same-sex couples. The certificates are sometimes required by other governments to confirm that individuals seeking to marry in their country are not already married in another country. The government previously refused to issue these certificates to same-sex couples, effectively preventing dual citizens or citizens with foreign partners from getting married overseas. 

2013 – Tasmania legislates to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

2013 - The Gillard Labor government publishes guidelines which enable intersex people to list their gender as 'x' in their passports. The guidelines also allow transgender people to choose their preferred gender regardless of medical interventions.

2013 – The Gillard Labor government legislates an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act making it unlawful to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Religious schools and hospitals are exempted from gender identity and orientation protections, but aged-care providers are not.

2013 – ACT passes same-sex marriage legislation.

2013 – The High Court quashes ACT’s same sex-marriage legislation. Federal legislation prevents states from passing their own laws, the court says. 

2013 – Transgender Children no longer require Family Court approval to access puberty blockers.

2014 – ACT allows transgender individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate without medical intervention.

2015 – The Abbott Liberal government commits to national plebiscite on same-sex marriage after a marathon, divisive joint party meeting. It is seen by many as a compromise to bridge division in the party and delay legislative action.

2015 – Malcolm Turnbull rolls Tony Abbott for the Prime Ministership. For the first time both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, personally and publicly support same-sex marriage.

2016 – Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria issues a formal apology for the state's history of anti-gay laws.

2016 – NSW Police and the state government apologise for the arrests and beatings at the 1978 Mardi Gras Parade.

2016 – Victoria legislates to provide for same-sex adoption, to come into effect in September.

2016 – Queensland legalises same-sex adoption.

2016 – Queensland equalises age of consent laws for anal sex to 16.

2016  South Australia allows for birth certificates to be altered without gender re-assignment surgery.

2016  South Australia passes legislation to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

2016  Coalition legislation for a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage is blocked in the senate following opposition from Labor and minor parties. Civil rights should not be subjected to a popular vote, supporters say.

2017  Queensland abolishes the gay panic defence as part of a raft of changes to the criminal code.

2017 Same-sex marriage postal survey

2017 - Coalition government goes ahead with non-compulsory postal survey through the Australian Bureau of Statistics. On November 15th 2017, results were announced: 61.6 per cent of respondents said 'Yes' to legalising same-sex marriage, while 38.4 per cent said 'No'. 

79.5 per cent of Australian voters participated in the survey. Malcolm Turnbull says same-sex marriage could be legalised before Christmas of 2017, but could not guarantee this.

Still to come?

The Northern Territory has not yet legislated to allow same-sex couples to adopt.

South Australia is yet to overturn the gay panic defence.

Transgender people are unable to change the sex listed on their birth certificate without medical intervention, except in the ACT and South Australia.

Married transgender people must divorce their partners to transition on official documents.

Men who have had sex with men in the previous 12 months are barred from donating blood.

Religious schools and hospitals are exempted from LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Australia.

Same-sex marriage is still unlawful in Australia.

Losses and wins
A sordid history of the gay panic defence in Australia
"Yeah, I killed him, but he did worse to me," the killer told police. "He tried to root me."
Why Australia's gender recognition laws need to change
Imagine having to out yourself as transgender every time you had to show a birth certificate – every school, every job, every time you encountered a bureaucracy.
Why LGBT characters matter, especially at the movies
A nerdy kid in rural Western Australia will see a strong, courageous, partnered gay character in Star Trek – and his mates will too. It’s difficult to be cynical about that.
Survey shows alarming anti-LGBT bias worldwide
Two-thirds of people would be upset if their child was gay, and only a quarter would be okay with their son dressing like a woman.
Where countries at the UN line up on LGBT+ rights
LGBT+ diplomacy is passionately contested, especially in the UN Human Rights Council.
President Obama just designated Stonewall the first US national monument for LGBT rights
The Stonewall Inn is now the USA's first monument honouring LGBT+ rights.