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13 Times Australia's LGBTI Community Had A Win In 2016

South Australia and Queensland tidied up a lot of old legislation.

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1. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews issued a powerful apology to people convicted of historical gay sex offences.

Julian Smith / AAPIMAGE

Up until 1981, gay men in Victoria were convicted of offences such as buggery, loitering for homosexual purposes, gross indecency, and offensive behaviour.

“There was a time in our history when we turned thousands of ordinary young men into criminals. It was profoundly and unimaginably wrong,” Andrews told the parliament in May.

“The government invalidated their humanity and cast them into a nightmare. And those who live today are the survivors of nothing less, nothing less than a campaign of destruction, led by the might of this state.”

2. The highly effective HIV drug Truvada was approved for use as a preventative measure by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The decision in May was a critical step to eventually getting the drug listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which would make it significantly more accessible for people at risk of contracting HIV in Australia.

However, it wasn't all good news for Australian HIV activists in 2016. In August, the first application to put Truvada on the PBS failed due to the cost of the medication. The drug manufacturer, Gilead, is likely to apply again.

3. The federal election in July saw at least 15 politicians who were against marriage equality, or undeclared on the issue, replaced with marriage equality supporters.

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4. The election also saw more gay, lesbian and bisexual people elected to parliament than ever before.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

There are now eight out federal politicians: Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, Trevor Evans and Julian Hill in the lower house, and Penny Wong, Louise Pratt, Janet Rice and Dean Smith in the senate.

5. And in the weeks after the election, BuzzFeed News confirmed the Australian parliament had a majority of marriage equality supporters in both houses for the first time in history.

Anna Mendoza / BuzzFeed

The shift was huge, but late – the Australian people have been in favour for years.

6. The head of the Anglican Church in Australia sent a significant letter to bishops over the church's stance on marriage equality.

Joe Castro / AAPIMAGE

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier wrote a letter to Australia’s Anglican bishops, saying the church must accept same-sex marriage as part of the landscape if a national plebiscite is carried.

In the letter, Freier made a distinction between civil and and religious marriage.

“We can still stand for, and offer, holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage,” he wrote.

7. A new LGBTI history month started in Victoria.

Gay Rights march, George Street, Sydney, 15 July 1978, photograph by Geoff Friend, courtesy Geoff Friend and Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Run by the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria in October, the history month emulated similar efforts to learn about LGBTI history in the UK and US.

“LGBTI diversity has always existed in Australia. There is a history of LGBTI people,” SSCV director Roz Ward told BuzzFeed News.

“It can be that we’re harder to find in the history, but we’re always there. And it’s about putting the current period into historical perspective.”

8. Australia finally achieved equal age of consent laws around the country.

Evaristo Sa / AFP / Getty Images

Queensland became the last jurisdiction to introduce an equal age of consent when its parliament passed a bill to amend the legal age for anal sex to 16 in September.

The change came in response to an expert panel earlier in 2016, which found the inconsistent age of consent had “adverse consequences” for young people, and made it harder to access information on safe sex.

Two politicians, both from Katter's Australian Party, voted against the change. One told BuzzFeed News it's because he doesn't believe in anal sex – full stop.

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9. The same-sex marriage plebiscite died.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

The defeat of the government's proposed plebiscite on marriage equality was a bittersweet victory for many LGBTI people.

The government made clear it would not have a free vote on marriage equality without a public vote on the issue.

However, for many reasons – including fear of a bitter and damaging debate; the precedent it might set for other national votes on socially contentious issues; the singling out of marriage equality as an seemingly unsolvable issue; the origins of the plebiscite as a delaying tactic pushed by social conservatives; the fact a public vote is not necessary to introduce marriage equality; the non-binding nature of the vote; and the cost – a majority of LGBTI Australians were opposed to the idea.

The plebiscite was avoided, but at a price; the government has, so far, remained true to its word, and same-sex marriage is not legal.

10. The Aria awards was a revolving door of stars standing up for marriage equality and LGBTI kids.

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Angie Greene, an ambassador for The Equality Campaign, accepted an award on behalf of pop star Sia.

“This award is for every single non-hetero and gender diverse person who can currently not marry the person that they love in this country,” Greene said.

Troye Sivan also dedicated one of his awards to the community. “This is a little thing for every gay Australian kid, for every LGBTQI kid who wants to go make music, you can totally do it, and win an Aria too," he said.

Later in the evening, Kylie Minogue and her fiancé Joshua Sasse took the stage, wearing "Say I Do Down Under" shirts to introduce a performance by Sivan.

11. Queensland's parliament voted in favour of same-sex adoption...

Jose Manuel Ribeiro / AFP / Getty Images

Same-sex couples and single people won the right to adopt after a late-night vote in the Queensland parliament in November.

Government minister Shannon Fentiman told the parliament she was proud the bill would overturn discriminatory laws barring same-sex couples from adopting.

“Meeting the best interests, needs, and wellbeing of a child is not dependent on whether a child has parents who are of the same gender, opposite gender, or even whether they are raised by a single parent,” she told the parliament.

12. ....and introduced legislation to overturn the "gay panic" defence.

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The Queensland government finally introduced legislation to overturn the controversial "gay panic defence", which allows people accused of murder to have their charges downgraded to manslaughter if they can prove the victim made a non-violent homosexual advance.

Catholic priest Father Paul Kelly was a huge driver of this reform, collecting more than 290,000 signatures on a Change.org petition to overturn the defence. In 2008, Wayne Ruks was murdered in Kelly's Brisbane churchyard. His killers had their convictions downgraded to manslaughter because of the defence, and Kelly has been fighting for reform ever since.

During the last sitting week of 2016, Kelly was invited to Queensland parliament by attorney general Yvette D'Ath to witness the introduction of the legislation.

It is expected to be debated and pass the parliament next year. The defence still stands in South Australia.

13. South Australia had a bumper LGBTI reform week in December.

Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE

In early December South Australian premier Jay Weatherill apologised to the LGBTI community for the pain and discrimination wrought by South Australia's historic anti-gay laws.

The following week the South Australian upper house devoted an extra sitting week to debating and voting on LGBTI reforms. The four bills, which covered relationship recognition, same-sex adoption, same-sex couple access to artificial reproductive technology and altruistic surrogacy, and making it easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificate, all passed.

One – the surrogacy bill – must return to the lower house for an amendment of religious exemptions.

CORRECTION

Joshua Sasse is part of the Say I Do Down Under campaign. A previous version of this post mistakenly said he was the founder of the Equality Campaign.

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Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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