Thursday, May 18, 2006

A loud voice for civil liberties falls silent - Vale John Marsden


Vale John Marsden AO

Liberal City of Sydney Councillor Shayne Mallard has paid tribute to his friend and leading civil libertarian John Marsden who died overnight whilst on a trip in Turkey.

"A loud voice for civil liberties and human rights has gone silent today," Shayne Mallard said.

"John Marsden will be remembered for his fearless advocacy for many human rights and social justice issues. As a gay man I will always be indebted to John for his courageous campaigning over his lifetime to remove the many discriminations against homosexuals."

"John Marsden's legacy as an activist for justice and equity will live on in all he mentored and influenced during his busy life including human rights, law reform, civil liberties and gay rights advocates."

Shayne Mallard who has been a close friend of John's since the mid 1980's has described him as an Oscar Wilde figure in our time.

"John Marsden delighted in confronting people about his sexuality. For those who passed this test they discovered a passionate caring man, strongly religious with a very close and loving family. John had many loyal friends from all walks of life and all sides of politics. He was a larger than life character."

"John never hesitated to let you know his opinions on the issue of the day with his 6am telephone calls legendary."

"For those of us deeply saddened at John's passing we now carry his legacy forward in the never ending struggle for equality and justice in a world where John's ideals and human rights principles are under pressure."

Shayne Mallard said his thoughts were with John's family especially his sister Jane Marsden, brother Jim, his Marsdens law firm colleagues and many friends.


Read the tribute to John by the Council for Civil Liberties.

Council for Civil Liberties, Conferral of life membership on John Marsden

We meet here tonight to honour John Marsden – rather, to acknowledge the honour accorded him by the Council for Civil Liberties.
John Marsden is only the third recipient of life membership of the Council for Civil Liberties. It is a very great honour and by your presence here tonight you mark your endorsement of that honour.
John’s career is a record of contribution to the community, distinguished by a forthright style and brutal honesty. Above all, he has shown great strength in adversity.
As a criminal lawyer working in the brick and bitumen suburbs, he is keenly aware of the structural disadvantages faced by the poor, the homelessness, the marginal and the disadvantaged when they confront the majesty of the law. In his capacity as President of the Law Society, he spoke out publicly on access to justice, legal aid funding and equality before the law.
He has always taken a strong position in support of unpopular minorities, notably homosexuals, aborigines and refugees. Little wonder then that he made enemies. Little wonder that those enemies would eventually seek to destroy him.
Obviously his open homosexuality made him a target of the prejudiced and powerful. Even in a city as open and carefree as Sydney, old prejudices about homosexuality thrive. It is an insult to all gays that many heterosexuals still imagine that homosexuality and paedophilia go together. It is as absurd as the notion that all heterosexuals are paedophiles. But where prejudice has poisoned the mind, facts count for nothing and an allegation of paedophilia is considered more plausible if levelled at a gay than if levelled at a heterosexual.
Channel 7 must have thought John Marsden was an easy mark. I wonder if they ever imagined that he would sue them.
John is a solicitor, and a very experienced one at that. He must have calculated, at least approximately, the risk associated with suing a media giant. Where instinct would dictate smouldering silence, John preferred to take them on. Most people here are better acquainted than I with the details of the gruesome fight which followed.
He won the fight, but at a terrible cost. If this was a win, what does defeat look like? Perhaps the award we celebrate tonight will go some small distance toward healing the wounds inflicted by Channel 7 in its ferocious defence. Read more here


Toby said...

"John's ideals and human rights principles " - hmmmm. Does that include sleeping with clients, having sex with underage hustlers, celebrating rampant promiscuity, taking illegal drugs and conspiring to pervert the course of justice too?

I am not sure he would have agreed with his post mortem beatification.

Shayne Mallard said...

yes John made some powerful enemies in his life time - none more so than the Conservative lawyers and politicians (not necessarily in the Conservative party) with predictable dredging up of old allegations per above and media so called opinion pieces, that he explained on the record both in court and in his Autobiography 'I am what I am'.

For those asking; his funeral is on Saturday 3 June 2006, St Johns Cathholic Chuch, Cordor Street, Campbelltown.


Toby said...

I am not certain that they were mere allegations. Most of them he boasted about. He thought it appropriate to sleep with clients, and to keep hard drugs in his office drawer to take during the day while advising clients. He said he had never "knowingly" slept with any underage boy, while frequenting Costello's and the Wall.

Since he revelled in this behaviour, calling his conduct "predictable old allegations" in an attempt to dismiss serious questions about the morality of his behaviour is a cheap rhetorical trick. Any other solicitor without his powerful connections would have been struck off for what he did.

Some of his human rights principles (like legalising marijuana) were indistinguishable from his own selfish desires. Campaigning to legalise his own predilections is not moral behaviour, and it it is certainly not selfless pursuit of human rights principles.

Sheehan was right about the lavender mafia - it did gay people no good at all for anyone who criticised Marsden's outrageous and immoral behaviour to be labelled "homophobic".

He might have been a nice person to certain people, and that is something that you should celebrate, but let's not pretend about his public behaviour/persona.

Anonymous said...

Read the SMH obit here