Scotty & Mal – New Zealand LGBT Heroes and Activists

Scotty and Mal in their bar
Scotty and Mal – “Mein Hosts!”

Scotty and Mal own Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar in Wellington. They’ve been out for decades and so have an interesting historical perspective on what makes New Zealand LGBT friendly. For the first of our interviews with our trusted LGBT locals,  I sat down with Mal for a chat to learn more.

How is Wellington for LGBT people? 

Wellington is probably the best city in the country for LGBT people. Cuba Street, where our bar is located, is famous for being bohemian, hippie, a little like the Castro in San Francisco on a much smaller scale. Men can walk down the street arm and arm and no one bats an eyelid. Gay people are integrated everywhere. Even the drag queens are in various bars in Wellington, not just our bar.

Are you out in your daily life?

We’re well known in Wellington, and nationally actually, as fighters for LGBT rights. I’ve worked in every gay bar in Wellington for the last 40 years, and Scotty and I have been together 26 years. We won our wedding in a radio marketing campaign to raise awareness for marriage equality, so we are known throughout the country. We’re also very well respected in the hospitality industry throughout New Zealand.

Scotty and Mal interviewed when same-sex marriage legalised
Interview by national TV news when same-sex marriage became legal in 2013

In general, is New Zealand LGBT friendly?

LGBT friendly Wellington during pride
Hosting “Pooches in the Park” at Out In The Park, part of Wellington Pride

For a small country we’ve got so much.  We’ve decriminalized homosexuality, we’ve got the human rights amendment act that prevents discrimination, we’ve legalised prostitution to assist getting the girls off the streets, as long as they’re registered with local police station then they can advertise in papers. It is still harder for the trans community in New Zealand. Because the LGBT community is so inclusive now it’s getting better, most companies have very open attitudes, most venues have unisex toilets, but there are still some loop holes in the laws that are not equal that we need to work on. But some of our bus drivers in the city are transgender, and it’s their personality that outweighs their gender. No one cares. We’ve also got Drag Queen Story Hour in our local libraries, so we’re making progress. Scotty and I have celebrated all the people who have made our community better and stronger by creating a honorary wall of our heroes in our bar. We want everyone to come in and see it and celebrate our history!

Is there still a need for LGBT spaces?

People say we don’t need gay spaces anymore, but there is always going to be a need for gay spaces… the bi-curious, people who may want to come out, people who don’t feel comfortable cuddling in a straight bar, that’s why we’re still here for them.

Performance night with Miss Pollyfilla
Performance night with Wellington Legend “Miss Pollyfilla”

Compared to other countries, what makes New Zealand LGBT friendly?

Really because we’re such a small nation and have had such a long battle and long hard fight for our rights. During the fight to decriminalise homosexual activity 30 years ago, the so-called Christians were chanting, “Kick them back to the gutters and sewers where they came from.” Normal Joe Blogs on the street were horrified that these people were meant to be Christians and were saying those things about us. It helped our cause. Society has moved on and the ‘old watch’ is slowly dying out. Society has become so progressive. New Zealanders think that as long as you don’t upset me or hurt me, then you’re fine.

What makes New Zealand a great destination for LGBT travellers?

It’s the country, the scenery is so spectacular. We’ve got everything, the mountains, lakes, great destination all with incredible activities, jet boating, bungee jumping, everything. And New Zealanders are so sociable, so friendly. Tourists who come into our bar say they absolutely love Wellington, it’s such a great walkable city with fantastic museums, galleries, restaurants, cafes and bars. And we’ve got so many American friends who are moving here!

 

Attending a same-sex wedding
Attending a Same Sex wedding

 

We agree! It’s the country. And it’s thanks to people like Scotty and Mal who have made New Zealand lgbt friendly. They are heroes in our eyes for their long-standing involvement in the fight for LGBT rights in New Zealand. Their delightful personalities and genuine Kiwi warmth also makes Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail and Lounge Bar a must visit when you’re visiting Wellington.

Marriage Equality: Our Story

This Saturday, July 22, 2017, is Bride Pride Provincetown 2017. Come and join in the celebration of 100 couples (we hope) trying to get into the Guinness book of records. As Karen and I are preparing to renew our vows, I wanted to share our marriage history, and why this Saturday will be an equally important day in the story of our life together.

celebrating our mock gay wedding at the Millenium march in 2000.
The first of our weddings!

April 29, 2000: Surrounded by thousands of other gay and lesbian couples participating in a mock marriage ceremony on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the Millennium March on Washington, and four years into our relationship, we realized we needed to say our vows for real! The ceremony was extremely emotional for all the couples present, we hugged and shared tears at the reality that we couldn’t marry the loves of our lives. However, we were so lucky to be living in Vermont at the time, and civil unions was about to come into effect on July 1st.  We were leaving to live in London in August, so we had to move quickly.

We got home from Washington, and with bags hardly unpacked, we started planning our civil union ceremony and wedding.

gay wedding invitation to our civil union in Vermont 2000
How do you write a marriage invitation when it’s not a marriage?

 

There was much ugly debate leading up to the passage of the bill, of course, but the strong voices of straight friends and allies helped to buffer the hate.

article written about our 2000 civil union in Vermont and marriage equality
Opinion column in local paper by one of our guests

We were delighted to learn that we were the first same-sex couple to apply for (and get) a civil union licence in our town, Chester, Vermont.

July 22, 2000: 21 days after the Vermont Civil Unions law went into effect, Karen and I got married. Well, ‘civilly unionised’… that is. We committed our lives and love to each other in front of friends and family who had flown in from all over the world (we’d both lived international lives and had friends from all over) – pretty impressive considering we only gave them 7 weeks notice!

our fabulous lesbian wedding down by the river
Riverside ceremony – in true lesbian style!

We’ll never forget the love that was showered on us that day. We know many others are not so lucky and we value this day and our loved ones deeply.

gay wedding guest album
Notes of love and best wishes from our friends and family
our gay rainbow wedding cake
Rainbow cake!

 

May 17, 2004: Marriage Equality in Massachusetts, finally! We had planned to participate in a group wedding with 7 other couples from our U.U. church in Northboro, MA on May 29, 2004, just days after the law came into effect, but it wasn’t to be. I was living in the U.S. on an H1B work visa, and my immigration attorney advised that if my green card application was not successful, and I was trying to enter the U.S at some future time on a tourist visa and didn’t have any legal right to stay, but was married to a U.S. citizen, I would be perceived as a threat to overstay and may be denied entry. Convoluted, but true. This was all thanks to DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)! Pretty messed up when you think about it! The group wedding was such a joyous day.  However it was also completely heartbreaking for us not to be wedding with our friends on such a special occasion.

July 11, 2008: After a lengthy immigration process, and with green card securely in hand, we legally married in a small ceremony in our garden in Massachusetts. Gaining the legal rights and protections not afforded by our civil union was our main motivation for getting married, as we considered our civil union our true wedding – a huge lovefest that we celebrate every year.

our legal gay wedding in Massachusetts
Finally legally married! Yahoo!

 

And so that brings us to this Saturday… it seems we are fortunate enough to always be in the right place at the right time!

July 22, 2017: Bride Pride! When we learned that Bride Pride fell on our anniversary, we knew we had to participate. To be surrounded by countless other lesbian couples expressing their commitment to each other for the first time, or renewing their vows as we will be doing, will not only be an incredibly emotional and moving experience, but it’s still a political statement as it was 17 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

As Bride Pride organisers Ilene Mitnick and Alli Baldwin have expressed, now more than ever it’s time we all come together, to stand up, and to keep moving LGBTQ rights forward. While both New Zealand and the U.S. have marriage equality, it’s still a basic civil right not afforded in many other countries. To think that our Australian brothers and sisters still don’t have marriage equality, and have to fly across to NZ to tie the knot, it is antiquated and unjust! While we celebrate the rights we now enjoy, and thank those who paved the way before us, we must also stay vigilant and continue to fight for those who do not share these rights.

So thank you Ilene and Alli. This lesbian couple is so excited be part of Bride Pride 2017, to renew our vows, and to celebrate that no matter what, love is love. And with Kate Clinton officiating! Does it get any better?

Best wishes to all the other brides who will be saying their vows on Saturday, whether it be the first time, or the third. May your lives be filled with happiness and love, and may you appreciate each other every day.

We’d love to hear your story, so please, share in the comments section below.

Stay tuned for Bride Pride pics!  It’s going to be a blast.