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Outgoing Australian gay senator says he 'almost banned lesbian sex'

Bob Brown recalls in a farewell speech how a tactical play almost led him to ban lesbian sex in Tasmania in 1986
Photo by Andrew Meares

Outgoing Australian Greens senator says his biggest political mistake almost saw him ban lesbian sex as a lone Green MP in Tasmania during the 1980s.

In a farewell speech ahead of his formal retirement next week at the National Press Club yesterday (5 June), the first openly gay senator recalled how the then opposition Labour party's decision not to move and get rid of section 122 of the criminal code - which banned male homosexuality only - caught him off guard.

'So, very nervously, I moved that it also be made gender neutral and thereby (unwittingly) made lesbian activity illegal as well and the house immediately passed it,' said the 67 year-old conservationist of his tactical play.

Senator Brown then rang a state upper house member to say he had made a 'terrible mistake'. He pleaded the amendment to be overturned but was told it sounded reasonable, according to the Herald Sun.

'I was internally haemorrhaging for two days.'

It would have passed, had it not been for Queensland's then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who declared he would not extend the banning of lesbian sex to his state.

Senator Brown then sent a press clipping outlining Joh's position to members of Tasmania's upper house 'and they duly voted down this innovation that I'd sent them and saved my skin.'

'So I'm grateful to Joh,' he said.

Senator Brown also revealed that his long-term partner Paul Thomas had pushed Prime Minister Julia Gillard to change her stance against gay marriage during a recent farewell dinner at The Lodge.

The Prime Minister 'listened very carefully' but reiterated her 'public point of view' that she did not support same-sex marriage.

Ms Gillard should not fear a public change of mind since many members of the public had also changed their mind and a majority came to support gay marriage, said Senator Brown.

A change would please 'many Australians' and leave opposition leader 'Tony Abbott out on a limb', he added.

As the senator prefers to 'looking forward to looking back', he would therefore not be writing a comprehensive autobiography.

But he did try to clarify once and for all how Jimi Hendrix died in London in Sept 1970. When Hendrix was sent into St Mary Abbot's hospital, Senator Brown said, the rock legend had been dead 'for some hours' after drinking too much and inhaling vomitus.

It was another Australian who signed the musician's death certificate, Senator Brown said.

He now plans to set up the Bob Brown Foundation to foster environmental and green causes.

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