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Second reading debate

Audio from parts of the debate during the second reading of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill, 9 October 1985 (part 2 of 2).

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A more detailed log of this recording is available on the LAGANZ website, see pages 0213-A and 0213-B.

  • 0:00:10 - George Gair   (North Shore, National Party)
  • 0:10:15 - Eddie Isbey   (Papatoetoe, Labour Party)
  • 0:20:55 - Doug Graham   (Remuera, National Party)
  • 0:30:56 - Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan   (Southern Maori, Labour Party)
  • 0:43:50 - [cassette ends; recording stops abruptly]
  • 0:43:52 - Philip Woollaston   (Nelson, Labour Party)
  • 0:55:55 - Bruce Townshend   (Kaimai, National Party)
  • 0:57:10 - [recording stops]
  • 0:57:11 - Jim Anderton   (Sydenham, Labour Party)
  • 1:01:52 - Graeme Lee   (Hauraki, National Party)


This summary covers the debate during the second reading of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill on October 9, 1985, in the Parliament of New Zealand. The recording, lasting 1 hour and 20 minutes, captures the varied standpoints of parliament members Bruce Townshend, Doug Graham, Eddie Isbey, George Gair, Graeme Lee, Jim Anderton, Philip Woollaston, and Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan. The debate revolves around a bill that, if passed, would decriminalize consensual homosexual acts and amend the Human Rights Act to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The debate opens with an acknowledgment of the deep divisions the bill has created in society, touching on the need for the law to reflect the evolving norms and address the inadequacies of the current law. One speaker suggests modifying the proposed age of consent from 16 to 18, aiming to match societal standards, but recognizes that any chosen age would largely be arbitrary. The essential element for many speakers centers on decriminalization, citing past opportunities for reform and precedents from studies such as the Wolfenden report in Britain.

Opponents of the bill raise concerns about the influence of the bill on public morality, the potential for increased promiscuity, and the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly AIDS. Some speakers cite statistical evidence and testimony from medical experts and community organizations to support the argument against decriminalizing homosexual acts. There is a strong emphasis on the potential public health implications and the supposed promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Proponents, on the other hand, call for understanding and empathy for individuals who engage in homosexual acts and argue against criminal sanctions for private moral choices. They stress the inadequacy and unjustness of criminal sanctions and encourage a more compassionate and tolerant approach. There is also a discussion about the age of consent, with comparisons made to the legal age for heterosexual consent, and questions about societal understanding of homosexuality.

The amendment to the Human Rights Act is another contentious point, with discussion centered on whether it is appropriate or even possible for the law to legislate attitudes or whether protecting an individual's right to express their views, even if controversial, should be maintained. There is concern that including sexual orientation in human rights legislation may unduly restrict freedom of expression and dialogue.

The recording demonstrates the complexities and emotional intensity associated with lawmaking, especially on moral and social issues. It captures a historical turning point, reflecting broader societal changes in New Zealand during the 1980s. The outcome of the bill serves to influence the legal and social landscape regarding human rights and sexual orientation for years to come.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

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Record date:9th October 1985
Audio courtesy of:Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ)
Location:Parliament buildings, Wellington
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