Homosexual Law Reform | Blast from the Past & Celebrating 30 Years 2016
New Zealand in History
'Go back into the sewers where you come from' was the advice of one New Zealand politician to homosexuals. The comment summed up one side of the bitter public and political debate that swept New Zealand in the mid 1980s during the homosexual law reform campaign. On the other side of the issue, gays and lesbians were urged to 'come out now ... be visible ... be blatant.'
The Homosexual Law Reform Act, which was signed by the governor-general on
11th July 1986 and came into effect on 8th August that year, decriminalised sexual relations between men aged 16 and over. No longer would men having consensual sex with each other be liable to prosecution and a term of imprisonment. Sex between women was not illegal, but many lesbians suffered the same social discrimination as gay men and were staunch supporters of the reform movement.
The campaign to reform the law moved beyond the gay community to wider issues of human rights and discrimination. Extreme viewpoints ensured a lengthy and passionate debate. The outcome would mean that gays and lesbians could be out and about, or the New Zealand family would crumble and AIDS would spread through the community.
During the First World War some military men began relationships with other men at home and abroad. Aucklanders met near the Ferry Building, Cantabrians had the Square, and Wellingtonians picked up other men on Lambton Quay. Men of all types met at work, while those with cultural interests met (and sometimes performed) in the theatre – such as Wellington Repertory Theatre. It was possible to assemble a social network of sympathetic folk – for instance, the homosexual writer James Courage went camping with friends in Peel Forest, Canterbury.
After the Second World War some exclusively homosexual social circles developed in the main cities. Many men spent their weekends in the company of their homosexual peers. They travelled between cities for parties, and socialised at the beach and the races, and in private homes. These were discreet networks, but some of these partnerships, and many of the friendships, endured for decades.
In the late 1950s the first political stirrings to end discrimination against homosexuals began. Some men wrote to the government calling for law changes. In 1958 a British publisher released A way of love, James Courage's explicitly gay-themed novel. Gay Wellington men established the Dorian Society in 1962. This was primarily a social group, but in 1963 the society’s new legal subcommittee – the Wolfenden Association – argued that male homosexuality should be decriminalised.
Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, 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.
Date of Royal Assent
1986 No 33
House of Representatives
9th July 1986
11th July 1986
8th August 1986
Ministry of Justice
This Queer Nation episode, presented by Max Currie, is an overview of the capital city's queer history. The literary demimonde is first up: Katherine Mansfield's lesbian affairs and a scandal involving Norris Davey (aka Frank Sargeson). Then the role is explored of the Dorian Society (1962-1986) and its subgroup the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which paved the way towards decriminalisation in the 1980s. The programme also introduces viewers to NZ’s most famous trannies: Carmen and then-MP Georgina Beyer. Interviews and archive material spice up the history.
for part 2 & part 3 of the story please refer to source: nzonscreen.com
A short video highlighting some of the people and actions during Homosexual Law Reform in Aotearoa New Zealand (1985-1986).