Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986

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Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
New Zealand Parliament
An Act to amend the Crimes Act 1961 by removing criminal sanctions against consensual homosexual conduct between males, and by consequentially amending the law relating to consensual anal intercourse
Citation 1986 No 33
Enacted by House of Representatives
Date passed 9 July 1986[1]
Date of Royal Assent 11 July 1986[2]
Date commenced 8 August 1986[2]
Administered by Ministry of Justice
Legislative history
Bill Homosexual Law Reform Bill
Bill published on 7 March 1985[1]
Introduced by Fran Wilde
First reading 8 March 1985[1]
Second reading 13 November 1985[1]
Third reading 9 July 1986[1]
Committee report 8 October 1985[1]
Related legislation
Human Rights Act 1993 (New Zealand)
Status: Current legislation

The New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 is a law that legalised consensual sex between men aged 16 and older. It removed the provisions of the Crimes Act 1961 that criminalised this behaviour.

Background[edit]

Homosexual male sex became illegal in New Zealand when the country became part of the British Empire in 1840 and adopted English law making male homosexual acts punishable by death. The Offences Against The Person Act of 1867 changed the penalty of buggery from execution to life imprisonment. In 1893 the law was broadened so that sexual activity between men constituted "sexual assault" even if it was consensual. Penalties included life imprisonment, hard labour and flogging. Sex between women has never been legally prohibited in New Zealand.

In 1961 the penalties for male homosexual activity were reduced, reflecting changing attitudes towards homosexuality. Shortly afterward the Dorian Society and later the Wolfenden Association were formed to campaign for legalisation of male homosexual sex. In 1968 a petition signed by 75 prominent citizens and calling for legislative change was presented to (and rejected by) parliament.[3]

The first parliamentary attempt at decriminalisation was made in 1974, with National MP Venn Young's Crimes Amendment Bill. This would have legalised sexual activity between men 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 did 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.[4]

The Bill[edit]

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 9 July 1986, after an attempt by opponents to invoke closure and end debate was defeated by one vote the previous week; the bill might have failed if a vote was taken then as several supporters were kept away from Wellington by bad weather. Two National MPs voted for the bill, and other National MPs (including Doug Graham) would have supported the bill if it had been in danger of defeat.[5]

The second part failed, but was incorporated into a supplementary order paper added to the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993.

Debate[edit]

The Act was subject to substantial debate, and faced fierce opposition from Christian political activists such as Keith Hay, Peter Tait and politicians such as Norman Jones (National MP for Invercargill), as well as the Coalition of Concerned Citizens which they created to distribute a petition against the Act. 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.

When National MP Lockwood Smith gave his valedictory speech in February 2013 after 30 years in Parliament, he listed voting against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986 as his biggest regret:[6]

I faced the classic dilemma of voting according to my own judgement or the opinion of those I was elected to represent. As a new member, I opted for the latter and I've always regretted it.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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.[1]
  • History Group, Out and About: Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/2198.

External links[edit]