Search Browse Media On This Day Map Quotations Timeline Artificial Intelligence Research Free Datasets Remembered About Contact
☶ Go up a page

Human rights and civil unions

In this podcast Alison talks about human rights and civil unions in New Zealand.

Audio and Text Transcript Download mp3 Download HQ mp3Plain Text (for Gen AI)


This podcast was funded by a generous grant from the Gay Line Wellington Trust with the support of the Rule Foundation


This summary covers the key points from a podcast by Dr. Alison Laurie, who contributed significantly to the discourse around human rights and their application to sexual orientation in New Zealand. Through the podcast, Laurie recounts the historical context and evolution of rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and broader communities, especially concerning civil unions.

Dating back to the post-World War II era, human rights emerged as a global concern with figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt aiming to prevent atrocities seen during the war. New Zealand's own journey began with the Human Rights Commission Act in 1977, which outlawed discrimination based on various characteristics but did not prevent hate speech nor cover all forms of discrimination, leaving certain actions and attitudes unregulated.

Laurie explains that the act of prohibiting discrimination in specific areas such as employment, housing, and access to goods and services, is central to human rights, which are not to be misconstrued as special rights. It was, however, the 1980s that heralded more in-depth discussions and actions toward extending these rights. The National Gay Rights Coalition (NGRC) became a pivotal group in these efforts. Notable was an incident in July 1980, where the Wellington City Council refused to allow the Lesbian Center to advertise on city buses, sparking debate and a clear recognition of the prevailing inequality.

The initial push for inclusion of sexual orientation within human rights legislation faced setbacks, particularly with the debated Homosexual Law Reform Bill. However, successfully decriminalizing male homosexual acts in Part 1 of the bill was a profound step. Yet, Part 2, which intended to add sexual orientation protections, was subsequently defeated due to heavy opposition and the risk of potential discriminatory amendments.

It wasn't until 1993 that significant strides were made. With the advocacy of Katherine O'Regan, among others, the Human Rights Act was amended to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This Act, effective from 1994, applied to both private and public sectors with governmental compliance expected by 2000. Additional amendments in 2001 further held the government to the same standards as private entities, eliminating prior exemptions.

Following the legislative groundwork laid by human rights advancements, the Civil Union Act of 2004 created legal recognition for same-sex partnerships. While Laurie notes that this legislation did not equate to marriage and received considerable opposition, it was still a substantial legal provision for same-sex couples.

Subsequent legal developments included the Relationships Statutory References Act of 2005, aligning various laws to treat civil unions on par with marriages. This had both beneficial outcomes, such as inheritance rights, and some disadvantaged effects, such as decreased benefits for some same-sex couples. More progress was seen with amendments to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act, reflecting the interests of lesbian mothers in birth certificates.

Despite these achievements, Laurie underscores that the transgender community is yet to achieve full legislative protection. The journey for complete inclusion of all communities in human rights legislation continues.

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.

Record date:11th January 2011
Location:Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
View on Map
Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004061).