Australian gay rights activist dies while waiting for right to marry partner of 50 years

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

An Australian gay activist has passed away – before he was permitted to marry his partner of 50 years.

Peter ‘Bon’ Bonsall-Boone, the founder one of Australia’s earliest equal rights groups, passed away this week aged 78, following a battle with cancer.

The activist, who set up one of the first organisations to battle against anti-gay laws in the country, has been a consistent voice for equality for decades.

Mr Bonsall-Boone is survived by his partner of 50 years Peter de Waal.

Australian gay rights activist dies while waiting for right to marry partner of 50 years
Peter and Bon

The couple exchanged vows in a ceremony last year to celebrate their 50 years together, but the activist’s death certificate will read ‘never married’ as same-sex marriages are still banned in Australia.

Just a few weeks ago, a terminally-ill Mr Bonsall-Boone had issued a personal plea to the country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to pass an equal marriage law, so that he could tie the knot with his partner before his death.

However, Mr Turnbull was apparently unmoved by the letter. He continued to block a vote on the issue in Parliament, and sadly the law did not change in time for the couple to wed.

Speaking last month, Mr de Waal had said: “I would feel pretty awful if Bon were to die as a second-class citizen.

“It is an indictment on this coalition government, and their disregard for our community to be married.

“They are prepared, these people sitting in power in Canberra, to let my partner of 50 years die as a second-class citizen. My dear partner of 50 years.”

Mr Bonsall-Boone had said: “I would like to get married before I die. It’s a bit difficult to get married after I die, isn’t it?

“In looking forward to dying, one of my sorrows is that I’m not taking Peter with me.

“I am going to miss him like crazy. Marriage for Peter and me would be a great sort of fulfilment of many years of association and love.”

They filmed a video for an Equal Marriage campaign, below:

It is not the first indignity that Bon suffered at the hands of the state.

He was arrested for having consensual gay sex, aged 19 – a conviction that remained on his criminal record for decades.

It was only in 2014 that a law passed to expunge such convictions.

Peter and Bon shared the first same-sex kiss on Australian television in 1972 on the ABC documentary series Chequerboard.

They also helped set up the first gay and lesbian helpline at their home and were also part of the early gay and lesbian civil rights movement and took part in the first Mardi Gras parade in Sydney in 1978.