law reform


Homosexual law reform

  • Homosexual law reform

    The homosexual law reform campaign moved beyond the gay community to wider issues of human rights and discrimination. Extreme viewpoints ensured a lengthy and passionate debate before the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed in July 1986.

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  • Page 2 – Setting the scene

    There is a long history of opposition to sexual activity between men and an equally long history of legislation criminalising this activity.

  • Page 3 – Birth of the gay movement

    Social and political groups for homosexuals in New Zealand began with the Dorian Society in the 1960s. Within a decade, sexual and social liberation was in the air.

  • Page 4 – Reforming the law

    To bring about change in the law, the gay movement needed a parliamentary champion. It found one in Labour MP Fran Wilde.


  • Martin, William

    Appointed New Zealand's first chief justice, William Martin, persided over the murder trial of Maketū Wharetōtara, a Bay of Islands Māori charged with murdering the granddaughter of a leading Ngāpuhi chief, two European adults and a European child.

  • Prendergast, James

    Lawyer James Prendergast was New Zealand's third chief justice.

  • Seddon, Richard John

    Richard Seddon’s nickname, ‘King Dick’, says it all. Our longest-serving and most famous leader not only led the government, he was it, many argued. For 13 years he completely dominated politics.

  • Lange, David Russell

    Seven years and one stomach-stapling operation after entering Parliament in 1977, David Lange became PM at the age of 41.

  • Wilde, Frances ('Fran') Helen

    Fran Wilde was a Cabinet minister in the Labour government of the 1980s, and is perhaps best known for her private members bill for homosexual law reform. She left Parliament to become the first female Mayor of Wellington.

  • Atkinson, Harry Albert

    Biography of Harry Atkinson (1831-1892) who was premier of New Zealand four times. He was a stabilising force in early New Zealand politics and a figure who transcended regional interests for national views.

  • Palmer, Geoffrey Winston

    Geoffrey Palmer, the hardworking, loyal deputy who became PM when David Lange resigned dramatically in August 1989, knew that Labour was doomed. ‘What I got from Lange was a hospital pass.’

  • Main image: Lord and Lady Cobham

    Lord and Lady Cobham are carried ashore at Pukapuka Island in the Northern Cooks in 1959. Lord Cobham, the governor-general, turned down an invitation to become patron of the Wolfenden Association (later the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society).