The "Nuremberg Rally"
The rally was organised by the newly-formed Coalition of Concerned Citizens to mark the presentation of the infamous petition against Homosexual Law Reform to Parliament, but the name by which it will always be remembered was coined even while it was still in progress.
Barriers were put up in front of Parliament steps, but supporters of the petition were allowed to move freely on both sides. A platoon of young people - women in blue uniforms, men in white shirts - carrying New Zealand flags and wearing sashes emblazoned with the CCC’s motto, assembled on the steps. The motto, "FOR GOD, FOR COUNTRY, FOR FAMILY" summed up the Coalition’s religious/patriotic/patriarchal purpose.
This performance was masterminded by Jack Swann, PRO of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, brought over specially by the CCC, but he badly miscalculated the New Zealand public’s taste for militaristic spectacles.
Sir Keith Hay led the supporters in prayer. The flag-bearers formed themselves into a cross. A Polynesian choir, bused in from Porirua, sang "Amazing Grace". A procession carried the 91 cardboard boxes of petition forms (each marked "THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN"), one for each general electorate, up the steps to stack in front of Parliament’s doors - an unprecedented use of the building. They were handed over by organisers Sir Keith Hay and Sir Peter Tait to MPs Norman Jones, Graeme Lee, John Banks and Geoff Braybrooke. Hay bizarrely told the crowd, "Beware! Beware! The grassroots are moving!"
A quick calculation showed that only quite slim stacks of paper were needed to hold the number of signatures claimed, and opponents began chanting "The boxes are empty!"
Opponents carried a variety of signs, a set from HUG (Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays) parodying the motives of signatories: "I signed because I was afraid I would lose my Job" "I signed 27 times" "I signed and I’m naerly [sic] 7" (The carrier dressed appropriately). Puai Nopera (Paul Noble, later a Gay Games medalist) leapt the barrier and was arrested, along with 23 others, included activist Neil Costelloe, whose mother was among those watching in horror.
The Bill’s mover, Fran Wilde (Labour, Wellington Central), spoke through a loud-hailer. Agitated herself, she attempted to calm supporters down. Later, she commented "I thought, ‘What is New Zealand coming to?’ I had never seen anything like that before in my life. But there were Jewish people out there in the crowd who had seen it all before."
The choir sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" (music by gay Sir Arthur Sullivan) and "God Defend New Zealand" and the crowd dispersed.
At 2pm, when the petition was introduced, many of the parliamentary press gallery, appalled, wore shocking-pink HUG badges.
Fran Wilde and her helpers found many of the 817,549 signatures to be duplicate, forged (whole families in the one hand) or false ("B. Bardot", "Mickey Mouse"), and had heard many stories of intimidation being used to gain signatures. A characteristic threat was "If you don’t sign, you must be a poofter too." Many children and some mentally disabled people had signed.
On October 8, the Select Committee reported the petition back without recommendation, but for true believers it represented the voice of the nation for years afterwards.
Thanks to Roger Swanson and Phil Parkinson of LAGANZ. Written by Hugh Young.
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