His partner and long-time love Peter Bonsall-Boone died as a ‘’second-class citizen’’.
Now legendary gay rights activist Peter De Waal is on a mission to ensure no-one else misses the boat on marriage.
On Wednesday he showed up at the University of Wollongong with his grandson Jamil Badi by his side, to speak at the Yes to Marriage Equality! rally.
‘’I’m here to support the yes vote and to encourage people to actually vote because it is important that we have a huge turnout of people supporting this issue,’’ Mr De Waal said.
‘’We’ve been waiting as a community for far too long to have marriage equality as part of regular life.’’
The 79-year-old and his love of 50 years Bonsall-Boone, better known as Bon, in 1970 became foundation members of Camp, the first homosexual organisation in Australia.
The lifelong activists forged a path for the gay and lesbian community, but ran out of time on marriage equality.
‘’Despite not achieving marriage equality for ourselves I thought it is important to be here and still support the case for the yes vote,’’ Mr De Waal said.
The world will go on and the sun will rise. It’s time for marriage equality.Peter De Waal
‘’We as a couple had been together for 50 years. We didn’t have the same legal status in terms of the Marriage Act so we just couldn’t get married and that was certainly my partner's dream and is still mine.
‘’The legislation needs to change now so everyone can feel like a first class citizen.’’
While polls show a sizeable and consistent majority of Australians support legalising same-sex marriage, Mr De Waal warned no-vote supporters would employ every tactic available to them to stop marriage equality.
‘’In the 80s we had the same types of people sprouting fallacious information, misinformation. They created a feeling of hate towards our community,’’ he said.
‘’They’ve been doing the same thing in this campaign. Denigrating the wonderful rainbow families we have and making the kids in those families feel inferior and predicting again that there will be lots of horrible things happening, which is crazy.
‘’The world will go on and the sun will rise. It’s time for marriage equality.’’
The rally was co-organised by Wollongong Greens, the Socialist Alliance and National Union of Students.
Other speakers included Jenny Leong, Jamil Badi and UOW student Lucy Cowen.