Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 844 ..
As leaders in our community, by making this law we are taking an important step. We are making an important statement. I am proud of that. It can have an impact on how society as a whole treats this issue. I would like to again commend the government and Ms Dundas for their work. I am still not clear what the Liberals are doing. I am sure they will clarify it. If, as I assume, they are supporting the bill, even though they have some issues with one aspect.
MRS CROSS (11.29): On Friday evening, 27 June 1969, a gay nightclub known as the Stonewall Inn was raided by 43 New York police officers. They had a warrant to search the club because it was selling liquor without a licence. At that time, liquor licences required that men and women be properly attired to accord with their gender. Many, if not most, of the patrons were what we would call today either cross-dressers or in drag. Perhaps some were transgender. It was not only unlawful to run a gay bar, it was unlawful to be in one. It was the law. The club was closed down.
Police reports at the time estimated there were approximately 200 patrons in the club on the night the Stonewall Inn was raided. It was not as if this raid was unusual. In 1969, in New York, gay and lesbian meeting venues were routinely raided. It was not even the first time the Stonewall was raided. What was unusual about the raids on 27 June 1969 was that, for the first time, the patrons fought back.
When news of the raid reached other people in the city, up to 1,000 people gathered outside the Stonewall Inn to lend support to those on the inside. The raid had begun at midnight. By the time it was concluded, some two hours later, 13 people had been arrested and four police officers injured-probably from being scratched, kicked and bitten by the gay patrons.
Mr Speaker, Stonewall is popularly regarded as the starting point of the modern gay and lesbian liberation movement. The movement has had a significant impact on the journey that we here in Australia have also been on and, perhaps in a small way, has led to the legislation we are debating in this house today.
Stonewall was important because, for the first time, the wider community began to debate the oppression of gay and lesbian people. It was an oppression that was supported and enforced through the rule of law. Lest we think that Stonewall rights were a mere aberration in the United States, let me fast-forward to 7 August 1994 in Melbourne. On that evening, almost all of the 463 people, including 130 women, at the Tasty Nightclub, were collectively strip searched and forced to stand together, naked, with their hands above their heads, in a gruelling three-hour ordeal.
An inquiry later found there was insufficient evidence to justify the police action. The police had alleged that their raid was part of the war on drugs, but only eight arrests were made, not all of them drug related. The 1994 police raid on a predominantly gay and lesbian nightclub in Australia cost the metropolitan Victoria Police Department almost $4 million in compensatory damages. On 11 October 1996, Sally Gordon, a Tasty Nightclub patron, won her civil case against the Victorian Police and was awarded $10,000 compensation.