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Wednesday 14 April 2010's 2009 Daily News stories revisited

Posted in: Community
By Matt Akersten - 27th December 2009

News-wise it's been a massive year for glbt folk. Here's our run-down of the stories that reflected and changed our glbt communities over the last twelve months.


The year began with one of the world's best-known gay wits arriving in NZ to meet some rare birds. Stephen Fry said he very much enjoyed meeting our endangered Kakapo - even if one of them did try to shag his crew!

Later in the month, Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson exchanged vows with his long-term partner, the editor of HIV+ people's magazine Collective Thinking Aaron McDonald died, a Christchurch cafe offered up a 'slightly gay-sounding pie' while the city's gay-run Flamingo Bar closed.

The big international stories included Boy George going to jail and Sean Penn winning a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk.


February's always a busy month for gay events in Auckland and 2009 proved to be no exception - the hastily-assembled Pride '09 Festival got underway, which included Prime Minister John Key dancing on stage with Buffy & Bimbo at the Big Gay Out. Later in the month, a nationwide Pink Shirt Day highlighted the serious problem of bullying in schools.

Meanwhile, a lesbian Prime Minister was appointed in Iceland, and more than 2,000 Hawaiians rallied to oppose Civil Unions.


March got underway with Wellington's Out in the Square day of LGBT fun in the centre of the capital. Air New Zealand went "away with the fairies" again to Sydney Mardi Gras, where an estimated over 300,000 people watched the biggest Mardi Gras Parade ever. Back home, Urge bar's Mr. NZ Bear winner was a "grizzly", and a community meeting decided unanimously to end Auckland's long-running Hero Festival.

The NZ Blood Service specified that men who have had sex with a man anytime the last five years still cannot donate blood (a reduction from the previous ten years), a few days before the New Zealand AIDS Foundation acknowledged that the number of people diagnosed with HIV in 2008 had been the highest ever recorded in New Zealand.

Overseas, the entire wardrobe and props store of lesbian TV drama The L Word was auctioned off in Canada, and there was a guilty verdict in a high-profile Pennsylvania gay porn murder trial.


The Topp Twins - Untouchable Girls movie was released to favourable reviews and record-breaking box-office takings, while the Milk movie was banned in Samoa.

Dancing stars Samantha Hitchcock & Tamati Coffey
Gay TV weather presenter Tamati Coffey won the hard-fought final of Dancing with the Stars, as young people from his charity Rainbow Youth cheered him on at Auckland's Langham Hotel.

Elsewhere, Sweden and the US state of Vermont approved same-sex marriages, Australia rejected civil unions, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill passed in the USA, Miss California was booed for her anti- gay marriage stance, and six gay men were confirmed killed in Iraq.


May was the month first went public with community concerns over an HIV positive man who was suspected to have deliberately engaged in unsafe sex, leading to several new infections in his young partners. The police launched an investigation into the man when a formal complaint was lodged, and he was arrested after several more complainants came forward.

Labour MP Charles Chauvel
Meanwhile, gay Labour MP Charles Chauvel drafted a bill to repeal New Zealand's 'Gay Panic Defence' - the partial defence of provocation - a legal tactic used by killers of gay men to get a reduced sentence by claiming they lashed out when their victim made a homosexual advance.

New Zealand's OUT! magazine folded after 34 years in print, and Christchurch's Pride Week included a controversial artwork. In global news, a Top Gun star came out, and several gay pride marchers were arrested in Moscow.


The man accused of knowingly exposing his young sex partners to HIV was revealed to be 40-year-old train driver Glenn Mills. Earlier that week, Radio Live host John Tamihere stirred up trouble with an error-ridden commentary on the Mills case, leading to BSA complaints and at least one business owner pulling their advertising.

The three-week jury trial of Ferdinand Ambach began in the Auckland High Court. He was accused of murdering gay Onehunga man Ron Brown, but sought a reduced sentence of manslaughter using the Partial Defence of Provocation, claiming that Brown had made sexual advances towards him leading Ambach to a fit of uncontrollable rage.

Auckland's lesbian museum went public with its cash crisis, Miss Barby Prawne was crowned Queen of the Whole Universe in Wellington, and a gay Auckland couple raced around the country dressed as chickens.

Adam Lambert
Overseas, American Idol's Adam Lambert came out, Chastity Bono spoke about his trans journey, and Google marked Pride Month with rainbows.


The jury in the Ambach trial decided on a manslaughter verdict, upsetting Ron Brown's family and the MP who wanted the law changed urgently. The government agreed, and the bill to abolish the Provocation Defence, fronted by Labour's Lianne Dalziel, was drawn from the ballot.

Radio Live's John Tamihere and his off-sider Leo Molloy were dealt with by station management over their offensive broadcast about gay men.

The Out Takes Film Festival crew wrapped up a successful year and looked to the future, funding ran out for a national LGBT youth project, and Kiwis used YouTube to say Fuck You! to homophobia.

Meanwhile, gay sex was decriminalised across India, over a million people marched in London Pride, and a homo-killing video game was yanked offline.


In August, LGBT phone counselling service OUTLine NZ revealed that it was struggling financially, Labour MP Chris Carter got little sympathy when he claimed a media fuss over his travel expenses was simply because he was gay, and TVNZ announced Rainbow Youth would get almost $260,000 as a result of Tamati Coffey's victory on Dancing with the Stars.

An eagle-eyed reader spotted a homophobic stationery product in his local Foodtown - and it was promptly taken off the shelves once we confronted the supermarket giant about it.

In LGBT events news, Dunedin had its Pride Week, and Kiwis won 14 medals at World Outgames in Copenhagen.

Overseas, there were more reports of anti-gay atrocities in Iraq, the Sydney Mardi Gras crew was caught out lying.


Spring began, and there was crystal-clear sky and great snow at Queenstown's Gay Ski Week. The NZ AIDS Foundation launched its new and far-reaching Get it On! campaign. Ferdinand Ambach was sentenced to twelve years' jail for killing Ron Brown. The Naval & Family gay pub removed its cruel Catcha Cray machine. And Auckland's newest LGBT Festival was revealed.

Things had gotten worse for OUTLine NZ - its manager was let go as its money ran out, so the community rallied to support the valued service.

Elsewhere in the world, Ellen DeGeneres was confirmed for the judging panel of next year's American Idol, and Jamaican police investigated the violent murder of gay New Zealander John Terry.


October 2009 will be remembered as OUTLine October, the month New Zealand's LGBT community joined together to give its time, energy and cash to save the long-running gay phone support service OUTLine NZ. The target was 30 grand, but in the end, over $40,000 dollars was raised.

Following the devastation of a tsunami in Samoa, K' Road's favourite drag divas also fundraised successfully to help rebuild stricken villages there.

Also in the news: 170 gathered in Auckland for a Takataapui HIV hui, Kiwi trans icon Carmen was controversially left with very little money following her Wellington birthday party fundraiser, and a glitter artist paid tribute to Coronation Street's battle-axes.

Stephen Gately
Overseas, Boyzone's gay star Stephen Gately was found dead after a night out on holiday with his husband, Uganda revealed plans to introduce a death penalty for gay sex crimes, and Barak Obama ended the ban on HIV+ travellers entering the USA.


When the promoters of Auckland's Big Day Out music festival invited Jamaican reggae star Beenie Man, the artist's history of violently anti-gay lyrics led to a wave of protest against the singer's visit. The Big Day Out quickly cancelled Beenie Man's invitation to Auckland and several cities across Australia.

Just a week after his bail application was denied in the High Court, HIV+ accused man Glenn Mills was found dead in his Mt Eden Remand Prison cell.

In other news, a newly-available HIV home-testing kit worried the NZ AIDS Foundation, a young gay ex-Exclusive Brethren member told us about leaving the isolationist church, and Parliament abolished the Partial Defence of Provocation - aka the 'Gay Panic Defence'.

America's biggest gay media company closed, the Aussies kept up the fight for marriage equality, and bear band Bearforce1 broke up.


As the year drew to a close, Rainbow Youth revealed its new-look drop-in centre, a free sexual health clinic opened in Wellington, and it was HIV+ support network Body Positive's turn to reveal its financial woes.

Gareth Thomas
Gay lawyer David Huebner was sworn in as America's ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, and an ex-MP with a history of voting against the rights of LGBT people was appointed to New Zealand's Human Rights Review Tribunal.

Elsewhere in the world, Wales rugby legend Gareth Thomas came out as gay, Houston, Texas, elected a lesbian mayor, and a McDonald's manager in Florida was fired after he told a transgender jobseeker "we do not hire faggots".

Lastly, we're hoping that two female albatrosses who are together waiting for their egg to hatch will start 2010 with a healthy chick. You go girls!

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Matt Akersten - 27th December 2009