Article Title:It's in Hansard!
Author or Credit:Doreen Agassiz-Suddens
Published on:27th September 2002 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:49
Text:Since the last election most of our attention has been focused on the United Future MPs and their views on homosexuality. But it is also interesting to look back over the last thirty years or so and to be reminded of what other parties have said about us in the New Zealand parliament. Because it is only within recent times that we have had such a grab-bag of parties in the House of Representatives earlier comments were made by the two political foes - National and Labour. By tracking their comments over the years we can see to what extent both parties have progressed with their views on homosexuality to arrive at what they are today. Hopefully this progress will eventually be reflected in the views of United Future and New Zealand First parties in the coming years! The comments made by the MPs have been recorded in 'Hansard' which is the official record of parliamentary debates. I came across their views when I was researching 'Hansard' for my MA thesis on the Pink Vote. I read the comments with a mixture of disbelief and amusement. Some of the MPs have long since been forgotten but with 'Hansard' their views live on! 1968 In this year the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society presented a petition to the parliamentary Petitions Committee seeking an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 to legalise homosexuality. When the findings of the committee were reported back to the House by the National MP for Awarua Gordon Grieve, he stated that he believed that: "the practice of homosexuality is revolting. We all stand for certain moral principles, and the legalising of homosexuality would indicate to society that we do not really condemn homosexual behaviour." (Hansard 1968; 2981) He also stated that homosexuality was "illegal, revolting, and unnatural behaviour." Labour's Martyn Finlay thought homosexuality should be decriminalised because it was something homosexuals could do little about: "It is a symptom of a sickness less of the body than of the mind'. And John Rae, National's Minister of Housing, said about homosexuality that: "this is a revolting act in the minds of what we term normal people." 1974 Views on homosexuality were not much better in 1974 when National's Venn Young introduced a Private Member's Bill to make homosexual acts in private between consenting males 21 years and over no longer a criminal offence. Debate on the Bill brought more ill-informed comments to the fore. Gordon Christie (Labour, Napier) referred to homosexuality as a 'disgusting act' and that: "the evidence shows that those who practice this perversion have the sort of mentality that could incline them to passing on their perverted and disgusting practices to young boys." (Hansard 1974; 3168) National's Lance Adams-Schneider said passing the Bill "would not help to improve community standards and family life." Adams-Schneider also seemed to think that legalising homosexuality would lead to the downfall of civilisation when he said: "history has demonstrated that the official recognition and encouragement of this practice has led to the eventual decay of great nations and civilisations'. (Hansard 1974: 3167) And National's Air Commodore Gill when discussing whether homosexuals were born or made, stated "I feel that sometimes a bit of strength of character or personal discipline at the right time might have resulted in a different end product." (Hansard 1974; 3164) 1975 During a debate about whether there should be a second reading of the Bill in 1975, David Thomson (National, Stratford) stated: "Most members will feel concern for the pitiful condition of the homosexual in the same way that one feels concern for a person who is obsessed with a craving for drugs, and the same may well apply to those who are afflicted with ungovernable rages which lead them to break the criminal law and assault other people." (Hansard 1975; 1133) Paddy Blanchfield (Labour, West Coast) thought that by accepting homosexuality, heterosexual relationships would be degraded and this would be to the: 'serious detriment of the family and society', and this would damage New Zealand's pioneering spirit and image. Blanchfield said when he opposed any changes to the law that "I hope that New Zealand will still be New Zealand as it has been since our pioneer fathers landed here and set a standard of behaviour of which we can be proud." (Hansard 1975; 2774) And Jack Marshall, who was eventually to become a National Prime Minister, said that homosexual activity "whether between two men or two women is a perversion," and "it is not only unnatural but repulsive." 1985 More anti-homosexual views again came to the fore in 1985 during debate on the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, such as this statement by Labour's Frank O'Flynn who said that he believed "that people who find homosexual acts totally repugnant - as I do - are entitled to shun homosexuals if they want to do so. I do not think that a person letting a part of a building - particularly if he lives in it himself - should be obliged to accept a homosexual as a tenant. I do not think that an employer ought to be bound to accept homosexual employees, at least when he is going to come into contact with them." (Hansard 1985: 7608) During my research work I found many other comments that were as equally as 'horrific'. But I will not quote all of them here as it would make this column far too long. No doubt there are also other statements that I have missed. Perhaps it might be best to leave them forgotten! Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 27th September 2002    
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