Key Events surrounding Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand

This page is based on Phil Parkinson's Key Events article.


24 May
New South Wales decriminalizes gay sex with age of consent at 18.

1 June
AIDS Support Network established in Wellington by Bruce Burnett and Phil Parkinson.

14 June
Parliament dissolved when Robert Muldoon calls a snap election.

7 July
Fran Wilde meets with Wellington Central gay community to discuss law reform options.

early August
Survey of new MPs by the gay newspaper Pink Triangle indicates that the new Parliament is more supportive with 15 of 23 new MPs supporting both decriminalisation and human rights legislation, although there is no consensus on the age of consent.

1 September
Gay Task Force formed in Wellington by John McDavitt, Bill Logan and others; it establishes a legislation group to draft a bill, meets weekly from now on, and commences lobbying of MPs.

AIDS panic strikes the media as a non-hospitalised PWA appears in Wellington for the first time.

6 November
Christchurch Gay Task Force formed.

10 November
Auckland Gay Task Force formed by members of University Gay Group, Equality Bill Campaign etc, with Peter Wall as spokesperson.
In Wellington discussion is continuing on the best form for a bill to take; separate legislative proposals are being developed in Auckland.

75% of gays and lesbians ina Wellington survey have been subjected to verbal abuse, and 42% have been threatened with physical violence on account of their sexual orientation; Minister of Health confirms that the Department of Health has found that the "AIDS virus" is present in New Zealand and that blood testing kits will be imported.


7 January
Gay Task Force (Wellington) publicly calls for law reform as a necessary AIDS prevention measure, and declares its existence publicly.

13 January
Meeting with Fran Wilde finalises detail of legislative strategy with the draft bill to be drawn up by Don McMorland based on earlier drafts by the Auckland and Wellington groups.

Gay Task Force releases series of pamphlets to assist lobbyists.

2 February
Gay BC established as a permanent radio programme, half hour weekly from 16 February, to report on the law reform campaign.

12 February
Parliament resumes.

16 February
AIDS Support Network says a $2 million grant is needed now; major publicity about AIDS continues.

1 March
Fran Wilde refuses to comment on an allegation from Graeme Lee that she intends to introduce a law reform bill.

6 March
Gay Task Force releases a statement that its lobbying shows that 65 out of 95 MPs support some form of law reform, although the GTF was officially "unaware" of any bill about to be introduced.

7 March
Imminent introduction of bill announced.

8 March
Homosexual Law Reform Bill introduced by 51 to 24 votes; Gay Task Force begins distribution of paper on how to write a submission on the Bill.

14 March
Four MPs (Geoff Braybrooke, Graeme Lee, Norm Jones, Alan Wallbank) launch anti-gay petition.

18 March
AIDS Support Network Trust established.

20 March
Anti-gay petition taken over by Keith Hay and Peter Tait.

21 March
Anti-gay forces launch petition, and Salvation Army announces it will administer it; within a week it is circulating in schools.

22 March
Methodist church backs reform. Cardinal Thomas Williams issues a statement in opposition.

1 April
Anti-gay meeting in Lower Hutt, organised by Patricia Bartlett, is stacked by gay supporters who pay half the hire for the right to speak and succeed in passing a motion in support of the Bill.

11 April
North Shore anti-gay meeting is addressed by Geoff Braybrooke and Richard Flinn; Peter Wall is ejected amid scenes of disruption.

12 April
Health Minister Michael Bassett announces AIDS funding package which includes a grant to the AIDS Support Network Trust.

15 April
Anti-gay meeting in Wellington Town Hall attracts about 1000 people including some 600 gay supporters who drown out anti-gay speakers - Peter Tait, Norm Jones, Ranchod, etc - and force the meeting to close down.

26 April
Submissions on the Homosexual Law Reform Bill close; over 2000 submissions and letters were received.

late April
First Heylen opinion poll narrowly backs reform: 51% in favour and 42% opposed.
Anti-gay propaganda from Calvinist "Reformed Churches" and Coalition of Concerned Citizens appears.
David Lange declares support; Jim McLay declares opposition.

1 May
Anti-gay petitioners extend date for signature collection because they do not have enough.

6 May
Wellington gay community holds separate Holocaust Commemoration function in protest at Salvation Army participation at the official function.
Jim McLay tells The Dominion: "I have always said that I regard homosexuality as abhorrent."

7 May
Statutes Revision Committee begins hearings on Homosexual Law Reform Bill submissions.

21 May
Bigot Busters rally at Wellington Town Hall attended by 1400 people.

22 May
Human Rights Commission issues statement in support of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill.

24 May
Lesbian and Gay Rights March in Wellington attended by an estimated 5000.
Lesbian and Gay Rights March in Auckland attended by an estimated 2000.
Marilyn Waring comes out publicly.

late May
MPs start to release electorate surveys; quality variable.

1 June
Death of Bruce Burnett.

22 June
Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays (HUG) formed in Wellington by Des Smith.

2 July
HUG holds its first public meeting.

3 July
Wellington Anglican Synod announces support for decriminalisation.

9 July
Heylen poll shows 4% increase in support for reform.
Television New Zealand postpones screening of a series on sexuality because of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill.
AIDS Support Network Trust turns into NZ AIDS Foundation and launches its first public campaign.

11 July
"Coalition to Support the Bill" formed in Wellington. This was a coalition of the numerous special focus groups and constituency groups - such as Gay Task Force, HUG and Lesbian Coalition - formed to enable wider support for public campaigns.

late July
Petition workers organised from Keith Hay's Auckland office tour New Zealand gathering signatures for anti-gay petition.

14 August
First visit by American fundamentalist organiser Rev Lou Sheldon (California Traditional Family Values Coalition) in association with Keith Hay and Barry Reed. Sheldon attends Select Committee hearing. His North Shore Faith Centre meeting is infiltrated by gays and disrupted.

15 August
Coalition on the Bill rally in Wellington attracts 600.

Petitioners claim 750,000 signatures.
Link between AIDS campaign and law reform now widely accepted.

30 August
National Gay/Lesbian "Bigot Busters Conference" starts in Wellington.

Restructuring of Statutes Revision Committee, following revision of Parliamentary Standing Orders, allows more rapid progress of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, now dealt with by a separate committee.
Submissions from the Health Department and from the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society heard.

13 September
An estimated 20,000 march nationally in support of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in a major show of support before it returns from the Select Committee.

15 September
Heylen poll shows support for reform has increased to 62.3%

17 September
Anti-gay campaign produces statistical analysis by electorate of petition signatures against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in an effort to intimidate MPs. Gay Task Force responds with disproof the next day.

21 September
Coalition of Concerned Citizens is relaunched by Barry Reed and Keith Hay in the wake of Lou Sheldon?s visit. This becomes the principal focus of the campaign against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill and the main supporter of the petition.

24 September
Anti-gay petition presented at Parliament in scenes recalling a Nazi rally; organised by another visiting American fundamentalist, John Swan. 24 arrested.

3 October
Rock Hudson dies of AIDS.

early October
The Social Effects of Homosexuality in New Zealand published by the Coalition of Concerned Citizens (CCC). Gay Task Force issues a rebuttal after a week of frenetic research into the source material for the CCC publication involving a team of people all over New Zealand.

7 October
Arson attempt at Gay Task Force HQ.

8 October
Homosexual Law Reform Bill reported back, intact, from Select Committee after 110 oral and 1100 written submissions considered.

9 October
Second reading debate commences. It will last four weeks because opponents try to 'talk it out'.

5 November
The petition, now viewed as totally discredited, is reported "without recommendation".

13 November
Norm Jones tells interviewer he is trying to 'talk out' the Homosexual Law Reform Bill so that more people will die of AIDS.
The debate ends with a vote 47-32 in favour (along party lines, more or less).

12 December
Parliament rises.


26 February
Parliament sits.

20 March
New York City Council adds sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination legislation after many earlier attempts have failed.

26 March
Jim McLay loses National Party leadership to Jim Bolger.

27 March
Sixteen preserved as the age of consent as a result of tactical voting (majority of 5 votes: 41-36).

16 April
Anti-discrimination provisions are watered down by tactical voting, and then lost 49-31.

24 April
Age of consent amendments resurface. Tactical delays are resorted to to keep the Bill off the order paper until we have the numbers to pass it.

Last ditch lobbying effort coordinated by NZ AIDS Foundation.

9-19 May
Gay Task Force stall at Trade Fair, Wellington Show Grounds.

4 June
Eve van Grafhorst comes to New Zealand.

Hardwick decision is released by the US Supreme Court.

2 July
"We've had enough of compromise" newspaper adverts placed by Gay Task Force.
Bill starts its third reading, but George Gair's vote defers closure and delays the Bill a further week (43-42) as supporters were short of votes to pass it.

9 July
The numbers come right at 5:30pm. Third reading of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill passes 49-44 shortly before 10pm. Apart from Jim McLay (in Hong Kong) all MPs are present to vote. Miriam Saphira announces result the same night to International Gay and Lesbian Association Conference in Copenhagen.

11 July
Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 signed into law by the Governor-General; to come into effect on 8 August.

11 September
Arson attack on the Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre, a key event among those which eventually led to the transformation of its collections into what we now know as the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand.

© 2005 Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand