Introduced by: Fran Wilde
Homosexual sex became illegal in New Zealand when the country became part of the British Empire in 1840 and adopted British law. In 1893 the law was broadened to outlaw any sexual activity between men. Penalties included life imprisonment, hard labour and flogging. Sex between women has never been legally prohibited in New Zealand.
In 1961 the penalties for homosexual activity were reduced, reflecting changing attitudes towards homosexuality. Shortly afterwards the Dorian Society and later the Wolfenden Association were formed to campaign for legalisation of homosexual sex. In 1968 a petition signed by 75 prominent citizens and calling for legislative change was presented to (and rejected by) parliament.
The first parliamentary attempt at law reform was made in 1974, with National MP Venn Young's Crimes Amendment Bill. This would have legalised sexual activity between adults over the age of 21, but was defeated 34 to 29, with 23 abstentions. Warren Freer proposed similar legislation in 1979 and 1980 but this not receive support from gay activist groups, who felt that a different age of consent for gay and straight sex would perpetuate discrimination and homophobia.
The Act was introduced by Labour MP Fran Wilde in 1985. Originally, the bill had two parts - one decriminalised male homosexuality, while the other provided anti-discrimination law protections for lesbians and gay men. The first part passed narrowly (49 Ayes to 44 Noes) on July 9 1986, after a vote was delayed on 2 July by George Gair; the bill might have failed if a vote was taken then as several supporters were kept away from Wellington by bad weather. Gair supported the bill, although he thought some sections went "too far". The second part failed, but was incorporated into a supplementary order paper added to the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993.
The Act was subject to substantial debate, and faced fierce opposition from fundamentalist Christian political activists such as the late Keith Hay, Peter Tait and Norman Jones (National MP for Invercargill), as well as the Coalition of Concerned Citizens which they created to distribute a petition against the Act. According to Laurie Guy, many of the signatures on the petition were found to be faked, and therefore the petition in question was treated as fraudulent. While the Coalition of Concerned Citizens threatened electoral reprisals, the Fourth Labour Government was returned for a second term of office, losing only one constituency seat to the National Party Opposition in 1987.
- ↑ Setting the scene: Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand at nzhistory.net.nz: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2197
- ↑ Birth of the gay movement: Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand at nzhistory.net.nz: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2199
- ↑ Reforming the law - homosexual law reform at nzhistory.net.nz: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2176
- Laurie Guy: Worlds in Collision: The Gay Law Reform Debate in New Zealand: 1960-1986 Wellington: Victoria University Press: 2002: ISBN 0-86473-438-7
- Laurie Guy: "Evangelicals and the Homosexual Law Reform Debate: 1984-5" Stimulus 13:4 (November 2005): 69-77.
- History Group, Out and About: Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2198.
- Full text of the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 (PDF). New Zealand Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
- A history of homosexual law reform in New Zealand (NZHistory.net.nz)
- Radio Documentary "20 Years Out"
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