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8 JUNE 2007

Lily law

My brushes with Lily Law between 1952 and 1987


A lunchtime presentation at the Queen’s Birthday Weekend in Melbourne at CAMP BETTY, a conference/festival of radical sex and politics, on FRIDAY, 8th JUNE 2007 by Kendall Lovett.



1952: The very first for me occurred in Sydney one weekday evening in January. I was with my first lover and we were planning to escape from our respective families and live together in Melbourne. Usually we met in a coffee shop after work but this particular evening it was warm so we decided to sit on the wide grass verge bordering the Macquarie Street entrance to Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. It was later than usual because I had been working overtime that week. Suddenly, we were lit up by a bright light trained on us from a police car. What followed was very disconcerting for two scared homos!

Two uniformed police got out of the car and advanced on the two of us demanding to know what we were doing. Talking, I said. Stand up! one of them commanded. We both did as we were told. You come with me, he said to me. You go with him, he said to my friend. So we were separated not knowing what was going to happen. What’s your name and where do you live? What’s the other bloke’s name and what’s his address? How long have you known him? What were you talking about? I complied and told him that we were going to Melbourne and were just making final arrangements. Okay, now get going, straight home, no meeting up with each other. But of course we did at Wynyard rail station which we both used. Apparently, my friend had been asked the same questions and had answered them in similar fashion as I had. We went to live in Melbourne.  



1971: Almost 20years later, my next encounter occurred after midnight, in William Street, Darlinghurst. I was on my way home which at that time was in Woolloomooloo. I had left Melbourne at the end of 1960 to travel to London and meet up with my second lover who had been transferred to London by his employer. I lived and worked there until I returned to Sydney in 1968.

On my way down William Street I was followed by four young guys who taunted me with “you’re a poofter … we know you …” etcetera. Before I reached Crown Street, where I lived, they left off badgering me and turned down Palmer Street. I was relieved. However, as I started down Crown Street the four of them darted across Crown Street and confronted me. They had slipped through a side street. What happened then led to my next brush with police!  They advanced in a semi-circle which put me at a disadvantage with my back to a building. The one menacing me put up his fist and let me see that he was wearing some kind of metal glove. Split second thinking and I noticed that the smallest of the four was the one barring my way back to William Street, so I ran at him. He jumped aside and I ran past him and out on to the centre of William Street. Lucky for me the traffic at that time of night was pretty thin. I knew police patrolled late at night in a paddywagon in the area. So I waited in the centre of the road and sure enough in less than 5 minutes I saw them coming down from the Cross. The four thugs must have realised my intention so the four of them ran down into Woolloomooloo. I flagged down the police and explained what had happened and that I had no intention of going down to where I lived unless they could assure me that the bashers would not see where I lived. The police suggested that I follow the car as they drove down slowly. So I did. About halfway down they stopped and I caught up. They’ve done a runner, one the cops said, so it’s safe for you to go home.



1978: Nearly a decade later in broad daylight on a sunny Sydney Sunday afternoon, August 27 to be exact, in Oxford Street, I was arrested along with over 100 other lesbians and gays from the 4th National Homosexual Conference which was being held in the Paddington Town Hall protesting an anti-abortion rally in Hyde Park by the Right-to-Life Movement and Fred Nile’s Festival of Light. I was carrying a life size cardboard waist length cut-out, a dozen of which I had distributed before about 300 of us  commenced the protest march down the Oxford Street footpath.

The cut-outs had various slogans lettered on them such as “GET YOUR LAWS OFF OUR BODIES,” “EVERY WOMAN HAS A RIGHT TO CHOOSE,” “WHAT I DO IN BED IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS” etcetera. Before I was arrested I saw a woman I knew with a popular ‘affro” haircut dragged by her hair across Oxford Street by a burly cop. Then it became our turn!

Three women and I had linked arms and decided to go back to the conference in the Paddington Town Hall. I was closest to the road. A single cop was heading towards us from across the road. He grabbed at me but caught hold of the arm of the cardboard cut-out and ripped it off as I let go. Then, approaching head-on in front of us were three or four  burly cops. One young woman managed to elude them but the other two and myself were simply picked up bodily. The one who held me dropped me down and grabbed the back of my belt, ripped my shirt and hoisted me up and, as I struggled because it hurt, dragged me to a wagon and threw me into it. I must have hit my head on the metal bar across the top of door opening because, as one of the others in the wagon pointed out, blood was trickling down my forehead. It was just a scratch though. The doors banged shut and I discovered that there were ten others in the back but I was the only male. One of the women said she had some experience of paddywagons in Brisbane. They are going zigzag over the centre cement strip in the roadway on our way to the station so we should stand-up and hang on to the metal mesh that covers the sides and roof of this wagon. And she was so right. If we hadn’t done as she suggested we would have been flung around inside and there would have been lots more blood around than the little I had shed. We stopped at the Darlinghurst lockup and left outside in the paddywagon for a couple of hours until someone outside demanded to know how many of us were inside. One of us said ten women and one man. We waited and waited. Ten minutes or more went by and then the back door opened and I was ordered out and taken into the station. I think the women were taken elsewhere. I was interrogated and pockets emptied and the contents put in a paper bag. I was taken to a cell in which there were 20 other gay men. One by one we were finger-printed by a cop who took great delight in forcing each finger down almost to breaking point on the ink pad and then on to the recording sheet. Then back to the cell. I had been arrested at about 12.30pm and was finally bailed out at 8.30pm. It was not a pleasant experience.   

3 cops

3 boys in blue keeping an eye or two on proceedings at a Sydney Protest.

Photo: Kendall Lovett, 1992



1979: On Friday, 26 January the charges laid against those of us arrested at Taylor Square (Oxford Street) on August 26th 1978 were withdrawn after protracted efforts by lawyers, civil rights and gay rights activists. We were informed that we could request the Commissioner of Police to destroy all records concerning our arrest including finger prints and photographs. If we did not make the request the police would retain all such records. I did so but asked that they be destroyed in my presence. I had to front up to the Surry Hills Police Records Centre to watch the shredding.

I arrived at the Records Branch on the date and time specified and was taken to an area containing the usual filing cabinets and several desks. I was shown some papers and asked to identify my name, age and address and two sheets containing fingerprints. I had to assume they were mine because the officer said so. He then took them to a shredding machine and switched on the power. Very deliberately he held up each sheet for me to see. Then he put them through the shredder and turned off the power. That’s all there is to it, he said. I said: But how do I know you haven’t kept a copy? He looked at me for a moment and then laughed: well you don’t, do you?


1979 a second time: This time it was in Melbourne where my next brush occurred. The 5th National Homosexual Conference was held there that year from 31st August to 2nd September at the Universal Workshop in Fitzroy. I stayed on for a few days holiday afterwards. I had been visiting an old friend from the fifties in East Melbourne for dinner at his flat. I suppose it would have been around 11.30pm when I was walking back to The Victoria where I was staying, along Lansdowne Street and had just turned into Treasury Place when suddenly there was a police car beside me. What happened then brought back memories of 1952 in Sydney. Do all police go to the same world-wide school?

One of cops leaned out of the police car, what are you doing? I said walking! He opened his door and got out. Don’t be flippant! What’s your name? I told him and that I was on holidays in Melbourne and on my way back to the hotel. What hotel? I told him. Where have you been? Out for dinner in East Melbourne. You’re a visitor from where? Sydney, I replied. When are you leaving Melbourne? I said: At the end of the week. Right, now on your way and I suggest that you don’t come walking through this area again at night while you’re in Melbourne.



1984: Back in Sydney one Thursday night in April or May well before midnight, probably arriving home after a Gay Solidarity meeting because I’d done some milk and bread shopping in the city, unexpectedly a police car squealed to a stop beside me and out jumped a cop and blocked my way. I had come from the city across Hyde Park, down behind St Mary’s Cathedral and was about to turn the corner into a short street that led to my house on the next corner. So what was this cop playing at? I soon found out. “Open your bag!”

What for? Open it or I’ll open it for you! It was a shoulder bag. So I undid the top and pulled out a loaf of bread, holding it up and then a carton of milk and some papers. He pulled the bag over and looked in. Put them back! What’s your name and address. I told him and added, why did you stop me? There have been some robberies from cars parked behind the cathedral so we have to check people like you with bags. You can go now, and got back into the car and drove off.  No apologies  



1987: I wasn’t prepared for this one in Sydney. A ‘phone call at work to tell me that I was required to attend for an interview with a senior detective whose name I have now completely forgotten at his office in Surry Hills. Back in 1982 at the National Conference in Canberra, a workshop revealed that the Gay Solidarity Group over the past few years had been receiving letters from prisoners claiming to be gay or lesbian and seeking recognition and support from the group. It was agreed that a meeting should be called in Sydney to explore some practical ways of achieving a workable prisoners’ support group. Sasha Soldatow and I set up the meeting in Glebe which failed to generate sufficient interest in the project so, as I was handling the GSG correspondence, it was left to me to continue being the contact for gay and lesbian prison inmates. I started a small newsletter and called it Inside Out and visited some of the prisoners who asked for visits. It was the fact that I visited one such prisoner that led to the call and the interview which was to check my reasons for visiting him, as well as my continued correspondence with another long term prisoner who was held in a NSW country prison.

I fronted up at the big new Surry Hills station and the detective I was to see came out and took me to his office. He said that they had to do checks periodically on visitors to some prisoners. He asked me how I came to know this particular prisoner. I explained about the group and how we   received letters from prisoners who said they were gay and wanted support from us. We only visited a prisoner if he asked for a visit. Otherwise we would write and send him a magazine or a paper. He wanted to know if either of the two prisoners he named had asked me to contact any specific person outside the prison. No, never! I was able to say quite truthfully. It must have satisfied him because he apologised for taking up my time and thanked me for being so frank. What I didn’t tell him though, was that the two prisoners he was interested in were lovers and had been separated because the prison officers were so homophobic

in their resentment of the partnership.



Probably the most important outcome for me was the recognition that as a gay man I had the right to challenge laws that unjustly affected me simply because I was not heterosexually oriented. It was my early couple of brushes with police and thugs and what had happened to other gay people elsewhere that made me decide on a course of action when I received a notice in May 1978 from the Sheriff of NSW to say that I was liable for Jury Service at any time during the following 3 years.

I decided to appeal against the Sheriff’s decision to include my name on the Jury Roll. The reason I gave was that I was prejudiced against the Crown because Sections 79-81B of the NSW Crimes Act No.40 discriminated against homosexuals and exposed them to harassment, intimidation and victimisation, and I went on to list sections of other NSW Acts such as the Summary Offences Act that discriminate against minorities, and provide police with arbitrary powers to arrest. I was summonsed to appear before a Sydney magistrate in the Court of Petty Sessions on the 3rd of January 1979 and argue my case.

My appeal was dismissed because the magistrate pointed out that there was no provision in the Act to allow him to hear my  appeal unless I was a person referred to in the various schedules and I wasn’t. I asked before he dismissed the appeal that he read my submission which outlined my reasons for appealing against jury duty. He did. Afterwards, and off the record, he suggested that when I received the next call to serve on a jury and attended court for the selection process, I should ask to be excused and would then have to state my reasons before a judge in another court. He said that he felt sure that the judge would probably find my reasons compelling and would probably discharge me.


Sure enough I did get called and did exactly as he suggested. I went before the Master in Equity at the Supreme Court in Sydney. I had to wait in court until this judge had finished with other matters. Being the Equity Court there were many lawyers in the courtroom waiting for their cases to be heard. My turn came and I told the judge that I was “prejudiced against the Crown” and therefore should be excused from jury duty. He asked me what I meant. So I told him I was homosexual and that the law discriminated against me and made of me a criminal. I started to quote from the Crimes Act. He stopped me: telling me that he didn’t need me to quote from the Act. He said he would direct that I be called only for a jury in a civil case. I objected because I said if the case was brought by an employer against an employee I would be prejudiced against the employer because many employers would sack an employee if they discovered him to be a homosexual. The judge looked really angry and told me: “You are not fit to be on any jury.” And wrote something on a sheet of paper and ordered the clerk of the court to take me to the office. Down at the office I was told that I wouldn’t receive any payment for my attendance at court. Then the clerk asked me what I had said to the judge for him to write such a note. I said, I’d like a copy of the note. He said, sorry you’re not entitled to a copy. And that was that. However, I felt vindicated because whatever the judge had written surely showed that he was as prejudiced as any employer. I would love to have known what all those lawyers in the courtroom had thought. KL.





Mannie has a personal web site: RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM

Mannie's blogs may be accessed by clicking on to the following links:

MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)

Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009

RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)

This page updated 17 OCTOBER 2011 and again on 16 AUGUST 2017

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