New Zealand LGBT Laws

Age of Consent Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

Consensual sex between same-sex persons aged 16 and over is lawful in New Zealand [L1.1].

Crimes Act 1961 [L1.1]

Part 7: Crimes against religion, morality, and public welfare

Section 134 Sexual conduct with young person under 16

(1) Every one who has sexual connection with a young person [a person under the age of 16 years] is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

L1.1 Crimes Act 1961 043
Assisted Reproduction Technology
Artificial Insemination, In Vitro Fertilisation, Surrogacy
1. National

In January 2002, the Family Planning Association set up a fertility clinic for lesbians and gay men who want to have children [R1.2].

In September 2000, it was reported that infertile lesbians and single women nationwide would be entitled to state-paid fertility treatment under new rules about to be introduced [R1.1].

The Health Funding Authority was to implement national guidelines on fertility services, having received a NZ$3.7 million boost to remove inequalities and reach more people.

Up until this time single women and lesbian couples have frequently been denied access to IVF procedures.

2. Courts & Tribunals

In January 2003, two High Court judges called for new legislation to cover the rights of fathers and children in cases involving artificial insemination after a sperm donor was refused access to the child despite a written contract [R2.1].

R1.2 Evening Post: Fertility Clinic for Lesbians 28 JAN 02
R1.1 New Zealand Herald: Free Fertility Care for Lesbians, Solos 11 SEP 00
R2.1 Stuff: Gay Sperm Donor Denied Access to Lesbian Couple’s Child 31 JAN 03
Asylum, Immigration, Refugees Legislation/Cases/References
1. Asylum/Refugees

A relatively new addition to the list of provisions enshrined in the 1951 UN Convention that entitles a person to apply for refugee status, “sexual orientation” owes its inclusion to a growing understanding in a handful of countries that lesbians and gays constitute a distinct social group. This article has been invoked to grant asylum to lesbians and gay men in New Zealand [R1.1].

See also: 3. Courts & Tribunals.

2. Immigration

A. Australian Citizens

The Immigration Act permits Australian citizens to enter New Zealand.

B. Family Reunification

Non-New Zealand and non-Australian citizens may be able to apply for “permanent residence” under the family reunification provisions [R2.6].

“Permanent Residency” – Married, de facto and same sex couples seeking New Zealand residency will be treated the same under new immigration rules. Under the rules, all couples will have to prove they have living together in a genuine and stable partnership for 12 months or more at the time they lodge a permanent residency application [R2.5].

“Temporary residence” – Couples – married or otherwise – who had not been together for more than 12 months could still apply for temporary permits [Ibid].

In November 2011, an inconsistently applied government immigration policy which has frequently seen New Zealand gay and bi men separated from their overseas HIV+ partners was amended [R2.4].

In December 2002, the NZ Government has announced that family reunion applications will be treated equally regardless of the gender of applicants [R2.3].


Immigration law is subject to frequent change and you should consult a specialist immigration lawyer for the latest information.


Effective March 1999, the Government decided to amend the Residence Policy to align the provisions governing the recognition of same-sex de facto relationships with those applying to heterosexual de facto relationships [R2.2].

In 1994, foreign spouses were granted immediate residency while foreign de facto spouses had to wait two years and foreign gay and lesbian partners had to four years [R2.1].

3. Courts & Tribunals

On 12 October 2017, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal reportedly granted a 57-year-old British transgender woman residency on exceptional humanitarian grounds, she having suffered years of discrimination and abuse in the UK. The Tribunal found that the woman was safer to remain in her adopted country where she had experienced no abuse or discrimination since arriving in 2009 [R3.9].

On 27 January 2017, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal upheld an appeal by a Jordanian man finding his fears of being killed on account of his attraction to transgender women in his home country were well founded and accordingly granted him refugee status [C3.8], [R3.7].

On 21 April 2015, Immigration and Protection Tribunal Member V J Shaw granted appellant Sangeeta Devi a work visa finding that the appellant’s relationship with her New Zealand-resident partner (who she married 23 April 2014) the difficulties the couple would experience living openly as a gay couple in Fiji and the partner’s commitment to caring for her teenage daughter amount to exceptional humanitarian circumstances and her deportation would be unjust and unduly harsh [C3.6], [R3.5].

On 24 November 2014, A N Molloy (Chair) and Judge P Spiller in the Immigration and Protection Tribunal allowed an appeal granting refugee status to gay Egyptian man AM, who was bullied and ostracised in his home nation due to his “appearance” and “demeanour” and, having a well-founded fear of being persecuted in Egypt, AM was a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Convention and cannot be deported [C3.4], [R3.3].

On 15 April 2013, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (A N Molloy) granted AO a gay Pakistani, refugee status in New Zealand, finding “ … that there is a real chance that he would be exposed to serious harm.” [C3.2], [R3.1].

1. Asylum, Refugees
R1.1 Adelaide Gay Times: Sexual Orientation Asylum is now Common 22 NOV 96
2. Immigration
R2.6 GayLawNet® – Info – Immigration – New Zealand
R2.5 NZPA: Married and De facto Couples Now Same in Immigration Rules 29 SEP 03
R2.4 GayNZ: Immigration to allow partners with HIV into New Zealand 22 NOV 11
R2.3 B.NewS: Equality in NZ Immigration Law 05 DEC 02
R2.2 Hon Tuariki John Delamere Minister of Immigration – Media Statement: Immigration, Discrimination and Same-Sex De Facto Couples 22 DEC 98
R2.1 Melbourne Star Observer: Immigration Rules ‘Unfair’ 30 MAY 97
3. Courts & Tribunals
R3.9 TheGuardian: British transgender woman given residency in ‘safer’ New Zealand 12 OCT 17
C3.8 Decision: AM (Jordan) [2017] NZIPT 800972 PDF 19.03kb 27 JAN 17
R3.7 stuff: Middle Eastern man attracted to transgender women wins asylum after appeal 23 AUG 17
C3.6 Decision: DEVI, Sangeeta No. 501973 PDF 21 APR 15
R3.5 3news: Fijian-Indian lesbian wins deportation fight 04 OCT 15
C3.4 Decision: AM (Egypt) [2014] NZIPT 800656 PDF 63.24kb, 24 NOV 14
R3.3 GayNZ: Gay Egyptian man granted refugee status 26 MAR 15
C3.2 Decision: AO (Pakistan) [2013] NZIPT 800322 PDF 165.06kb, 15 APR 13
R3.1 GayStarNews: New Zealand throws lifeline to gay Pakistani man with refugee status 28 JUL 13
Censorship, Freedom of Expression, Free Speech, Right of Assembly Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

On 04 December 2012, the Broadcasting Standards Authority refused to even consider Hamilton man Leo Leitch’s repeated complaints – that the word ‘gay’ shouldn’t be used on TV news because he believes it’s too sympathetic and supportive, and not impartial – finding the complaints “frivolous and trivial” and may be seen as vexatious [C1.2], [R1.1].

C1.2 BSA: Leitch and Television New Zealand Ltd and TVWorks Ltd 2012-104, 04 DEC 12
R1.1 GayNZ: Complaints about use of ‘gay’ on news ruled trivial 16 DEC 12
Children: Access, Custody, Visitation Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

In April 2004, Auckland Family Court Judge Fleming awarded joint custody of a child conceived with donated sperm to the biological mother and her partner, and also gave the lesbian partner and biological father shared guardianship with the biological mother [R1.1].

The determination went beyond the initial agreement between the parties that the men have 14 days’ access a year. The Judge awarded monthly access, increasing to seven days a month [R1.1].

The Courts have in more recent years moderated previously discriminatory attitudes towards gay men and lesbians.

Many such parents are granted custody following a breakdown of a marriage, however the primary consideration in any custody application is what is in the best interests of the child.

R1.1 Sunday Star Times: Gay Men Win Legal Fight for Toddler 18 APR 04
Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

The Civil Unions Act 2004 sets out a system of registration and dissolution of civil unions between adult partners of relationships “in the nature of marriage”, for same-sex couples and different-sex couples [L1.7], [R1.6].

If you are in a same-sex relationship, you and your partner should consider the situations that might arise were one or other of you to become incapacitated [R1.5].

Most of these situations can be addressed in an Enduring Power of Attorney made under the provisions of the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act [L1.4].

Issues that may be included include management of your financial and property affairs, personal care and welfare guardianship. You may appoint your partner and/or another trusted friend in separate powers of attorneys for different aspects of your life should you so choose.

In July 2003, New Zealand’s Parliament was to consider a proposal to give homosexual couples the legal rights akin to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples [R1.3].

In March 2002, one of New Zealand’s two openly gay MPs says he believes that this year’s election will produce a Parliament, which will legislate for full legal equality for same-sex relationships [R1.2].

In August 1999, the Ministry of Justice put out a discussion paper calling for submissions asking what the legal rights of same-sex couples should be in a range of areas including marriage and the ability to adopt children [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

In December 2009, the Corrections Department blocked two van thieves from holding their civil union in prison as one partner was staying in NZ unlawfully [R2.1].

L1.7 Civil Union Act 2004
R1.6 The Dominion Post: Legal Status At A Price 19 JUN 04
Sydney Morning Herald: Wellington Proposes Law to Allow Same-sex Unions 18 JUL 03
See also: Campaign for Civil Unions
R1.5 GayLawNet®: Subjects/Topics – Incapacity, Wills, Death & Inheritance
L1.4 Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988
R1.3 Sydney Morning Herald: Wellington Proposes Law to Allow Same-sex Unions 18 JYL 03
R1.2 BNews: Full Rights Soon, Says NZ MP 14 MAR 02
R1.1 TVNZ One Network News: Views Sought on Same-Sex Rights 24 AUG 99
R2.1 Van theft couple can’t have civil union in prison 13 DEC 09
Discrimination Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [VIOLENCE]
1. National

The Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation” [L1.6].

Human Rights Act 1993 [L1.6]

2. Unlawful Discrimination.

Section 21 Prohibited grounds of discrimination

(1) family status, which means –

(m) “sexual orientation”, which means a heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation.


Some union negotiated employment contracts ensured that benefits apply to “partners” as distinct from “spouses”.


Discrimination in Provision of Land, Housing, and Other Accommodation

Section 54. Exception in relation to shared residential accommodation—

Nothing in section 53 of this Act shall apply to residential accommodation which is to be shared with the person disposing of the accommodation, or on whose behalf it is disposed of [L1.5].

The Race Relations Act 1971 makes it unlawful to discriminate by reason of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of a person or of any relative of that person [L1.4].

In September 2008, it was reported that Students at some Auckland schools must now formally declare their homosexualitiy if they wish to take a same-sex partner to the school prom [R1.3].

In September 1997, it was reported that at least two Auckland schools had broken the law by banning students from taking same-sex partners to their school balls [R1.2].

In November 1996, a gay police officer was told by police headquarters to change his private internet homepage because it breaches police rules [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 24 July 2014, Judge Arthur Tompkins in Masterton District Court said drug-addicted transsexual Victoria Crawford, allegedly charged with trespass and aggravated robbery, can be kept in segregation while on remand in a male prison [R2.3].

In November 2012, a case was to be taken before the Employment Relations Authority to determine whether a work colleague calling Grant White a “dirty homosexual” was contrary to the law [C2.2], [R2.1].

L1.6 Human Rights Act 1993
L1.5 54 Exception in relation to shared residential accommodation (Accessed 04 FEB 14)
L1.4 Race Relations Act 1971
R1.3 MCV: Contracts for Gay Students 04 SEP 08
R1.2 Capital Q: Student Rights to a Ball 12 SEP 97
R1.1 Capital Q: Gay Officer Reprimanded 22 NOV 96
R2.3 Wairarapa Times-Age: Transsexual can be kept segregated, says judge 28 JUL 14
C2.2 Employment Relations Authority: Grant White v. Health Care New Zealand [2012] NZERA
R2.1 PinkNews: Employment Authority to decide on ‘dirty homosexual’ slur 18 NOV 12
Estates, Inheritance, Property, Succession, Wills Legislation/Cases/References
1. Property Generally:

On 29 March 2001, the Property (Relationships) Act was passed by the Parliament and applies to couples who have been together for three years [L1.10].

Under the legislation assets acquired during the relationship will be split 50-50 [R1.9].

There is provision for contracting out of the provisions of the legislation, which came into effect in February 2002.

The Matrimonial Property Act does not apply to same-sex couples.

On 25 June 2017, the Sunday Star Times provided a brief summary of considerations in determining what is relationship property and what is separate property that can be a source of tension when couples split [R1.8]

In January 2002, family law specialists said, there had been a marked increase in people wanting to contract out of the Property (Relationships) Act, which will replace the Matrimonial Property Act commencing 01 February 2002 [R1.7].

In November 2000, the Parliament voted to give gay and lesbian partners of at least three years’ standing the same access to courts for division of property or dissolution as divorcing married couples [R1.6].

In April 2000, a proposal went before cabinet to amend the Matrimonial Property Act to include same-sex and de facto relationships [R1.5].

In December 1999, the Minister of Justice said that gay and lesbian couples would get the same legal property rights as de facto heterosexual couples [R1.4].

In September 1999, a parliamentary select committee decided to delay legislation until 2000 that will give de facto couples similar property rights to married people when they split up [R1.3].

In August 1998, the Human Rights Commissioner wants the property rights of same-sex couples put on an equal footing to those in heterosexual relationships [R1.2.

If you intend to contribute finances to the joint purchase of property with your partner, you should –

  • consider the “manner of holding” the property [R1.1]; and
  • enter into a property or cohabitation agreement to protect your rights and limit your liabilities.
2. Estates, Inheritance:

Under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 a same-sex partner of not less than three-years duration may have a claim to an interest in an intestate estate (where there is no Will) [L1.9].

In a disputed claim, the court first has to decide which property is “attributable” to the relationship.

If there is no Will, a partner may also make a claim against the deceased’s estate under Section 77 of the Adminstration Act 1969 [L2.4]. The Administration Amendment Act 2005 amended by including “civil union partner”.

A valid Will is necessary to ensure that a same-sex partner receives any intended benefit [R2.3]. It is advisable to have your Will professionally drawn up. Do not use “do-it-yourself” will kits which usually do not consider the situation of same-sex partners.

Under the Family Protection Act 1955 claims may be made against a deceased person’s estate by same-sex partners [L2.2].

If your partner dies as a result of an accident and you were financially dependant upon him or her, you may be able to recover some compensation from the Accident Compensation Corporation.


In August 1997, the New Zealand Law Commission wanted Parliament to curb the power of the courts to interfere with the provisions of a dead person’s will, and enshrine in New Zealand law the recognition of same-sex relationships [R2.1].

1. Property Generally
L1.10 Property (Relationships) Act 1976
R1.9 Sydney Xpress News: NZ Okays Property Rights” 05 APR 01
R1.8 Stuff: For richer, for poorer: splitting the assets and the couple 25 JUN 17
R1.7 New Zealand Herald: Couples Rush to Beat New Property Law 31 JAN 02
R1.6 PlanetOut: NZ Gay Couples Win Divorce Rights 22 NOV 00
R1.5 The New Zealand Herald: Married and Gay Equal in New Law 03 APR 00
R1.4 New Zealand Herald: De Facto Rights To Go Unisex 30 DEC 99
R1.3 Christchurch Press: De Facto Property Law Deferred 17 SEP 99
R1.2 Radio New Zealand: HRC Wants New Partner Rights Bill 15 AUG 98
R1.1 GayLawNet®: Subject/Topics – Information – Owning Property
2. Estates, Inheritance
L2.4 Administration Act 1969
R2.3 GayLawNet®: Subjects/Topics – “Incapacity, Wills, Death & Inheritance
L2.2 Family Protection Act 1955
R2.1 Melbourne Star Observer: Breakthrough in NZ! 22 AUG 97
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
1. National

As at 27 February 2013, married transgender people wanting their sex changed on their birth record (to enable them to fully adopt the gender of their choice) must either divorce their spouse or change their relationship from a marriage to a civil union [D1.5], [R1.4].

On 30 November 2012, the more flexible Internal Affairs’ passport policy for transgender and intersex people came into effect enabling applicants who provide a witnessed Statutory Declaration with their passport application, outlining their circumstances, to choose the gender identity they wish to be displayed in their passport [D1.3], [R1.2].

In 2004, the Minister of Health agreed to fund a small number of gender-changing operations with the Minstery of Health paying for the operations, the patient paying the pre-op consultation costs of about $1200 plus air fares, and post-operative support costs [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 12 October 2017, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal reportedly granted a 57-year-old British transgender woman residency on exceptional humanitarian grounds, she having suffered years of discrimination and abuse in the UK. The Tribunal found that the woman was safer to remain in her adopted country where she had experienced no abuse or discrimination since arriving in 2009 [R2.5].

On 29 June 2016, it was reported that transgender hairdresser Dakota Hemmingson had been awarded &3,248 in lost wages and &11,000 compensation for the hurt and humiliation after the Employment Relations Authority ruled she was forced out of her job when she revealed to her boss she would transition to living as a woman. The case was determined on 21 April 2016, with the question of costs then reserved [C2.4], [R2.3].

On 19 December 2012, Judge David Harvey in the Whangarei District Court sentenced transgender woman Glen Cooper to two years and one month in a men’s prison, the judge saying a NZ Department of Corrections policy of refusing to allow transgender prisoners to initiate hormone treatment as appalling [R2.2].

The Corrections Department would move transgender prisoners to a female prison if they had full sexual realignment surgery [R2.1].

D1.5 Government Administration Committee Report: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill at 5, PDF 259.12kb, 26 FEB 13
R1.4 SameSame: NZ Parliament committee backsmarriage equality 27 FEB 13
D1.3 Passports NZ: Information about Changing Sex / Gender Identiy (Accessed 09 DEC 12)
R1.2 Trans/intersex passports policy becomes official 05 DEC 12
R1.1 Taranaki Daily News: 73-Year Old to Have Transgender Surgery 20 AUG 05
2. Courts & Tribunals
R2.5 TheGuardian: British transgender woman given residency in ‘safer’ New Zealand 12 OCT 17
C2.4 Determination: Hemmingson v Matthew Russell Andrew Swan t/a Barkers Groom Room & Anor [2016] NZERA Auckland 120 PDF 167.62kb 21 APR 16
R2.3 NewZealandHerald: Transgender hairdresser wins employment case 29 JUN 16
R2.2 Courier Mail: Transgender New Zealand woman to go to men’s prison 20 DEC 12
R2.1 The Northern Advocate: Transgender prisoner’s release sought 21 DEC 12
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [VIOLENCE]
1. National

On 08 December 2009, the “gay panic defence” in Section 169 of the Crimes Act was repealed by section 4 of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Act 2009 (2009 No 64) [L1.3].

Section 9 of the Sentencing Act 2002 [L1.2] provides that:

(1) In sentencing or otherwise dealing with an offender the court must take into account the following aggravating factors to the extent that they are applicable in the case:

(a) … (g)

(h) that the offender committed the offence partly or wholly because of hostility towards a group of persons who have an enduring common characteristic such as race, colour, nationality, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability; and

(i) the hostility is because of that common characteristic; and
(ii) the offender believed that the victim has that characteristic.


In May 2002, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill 2002 in a second-reading 67-49 vote [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

In September 2000, a Court of Appeal ruling that censors had no right to ban two videos accused of gay-bashing was being hailed as a victory for free speech – or for hatred [R2.2].

On 09 July 2009, Ferdinand Ambach, 32, a dive master, was found not guilty of murdering Ronald Brown, 69, but guilty of manslaughter. Part of Ambach’s defence was that Mr Brown, who was gay, made unwanted sexual advances to him [R2.1].

L1.3 Crimes Act 1961 No 43
L1.2 Sentencing Act 2002
R1.1 GayLawNet Staff Report: New Zealands Adds Hate Crimes Law May 02
R2.2 New Zealand Herald: Court Okays Anti-Gay Videos 01 SEP 00
R2.1 New Zealand Herald: Gay community calls for justice over banjo killing 10 JUL 09
Health, Medical Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 15 December 2014, gay and bisexual men who haven’t had anal or oral sex with another man in a year can donate blood [R1.1].

R1.1 GayNZ: New one year blood ban now in place 15 DEC 14
HIV Aids Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

In October 2005, the Wellington District Court ruled that HIV-positive people do not have to tell their sexual partners of their condition, if they use condoms [R1.2].


In September 1999, legal advice formed after an Appeal Court judgment was that people with HIV must tell sexual partners of their HIV status even if they have protected sex [R1.1].

R1.2 Melbourne Star: Safe-sex Leads to Acquittal 13 OCT 05
The Australian: Condoms a Legal Shield in NZ for Those With HIV 06 OCT 05
R1.1 Queensland Pride: Disclosure a Must SEP 99
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [AGE OF CONSENT]
1. National

On 10 April 2018, the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018 came into force [R1.7].

On 03 April 2018 the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill passed its third reading with unanimous support. The Bill awaits Royal Assent and this Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent [R1.6].

On 28 June 2017, the ”Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill” was introduced to Parliament. The Bill allow historical convictions for homosexual offences to be removed [L1.5], [R1.4].

On 09 February 2017, it was reported that the government proposed legislation to pardon the gay and bisexual men previously convicted of historic gay sex offences in the country on a case by case basis [R1.3].

On 08 December 2009, the “gay panic defence” in Section 169 of the Crimes Act was repealed by section 4 of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Act 2009 (2009 No 64) [L1.2].

On 11 July 1986, the Homosexual Reform Act 1986 was assented to and came into force 28 days later (08 August 1986) when consensual sex between same sex couples was decriminalised [L1.1]

R1.7 Department of Justice: Wiping historical homosexual convictions PDF 411.77kb (Accessed 11 APR 18)
R1.6 Stuff: Parliament votes to allow wiping of homosexual convictions with new law 03 APR 18
L1.5 Bill: Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill (Accessed 29 JUN 17)
R1.4 ScoopIndependentNews: Bill to wipe historical homosexual convictions introduced 28 JUN 17
R1.3 NewZealandHerald: NZ Government to quash historic gay sex convictions 09 DEC 17
L1.2 Crimes Act 1961 No 43
L1.1 Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 033
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 19 April 2013, the Governor General gave Royal Assent to the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Act. There is a four month wait written into the Act so the Department of Internal Affairs can make the necessary changes to forms, certificates and computer systems. This means the first date that same-sex couples will be able to marry will be 19 August [R1.13].

On 17 April 2013, the Parliament finally passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Bill introduced by Labour MP Louisa Walls in a 77-44 vote. The Bill amends the definition of “marriage” to mean “… the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”. After being signed into law, authorities have four months to finalise paperwork in order for the first same-sex marriages to take place in mid-August [R1.13].


The Marriage Act 1955 ” … confined marriage to a union between a man and a woman … ” [C1.12].

On 27 March 2013, a bid to amend the Marriage Equality Bill allowing blatant discrimination against GLBTI couples was voted down by Parliament and the Bill was been sent to its third reading with no amendments. The third reading is expected on 17 April [R1.11].

On 13 March 2013, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its second reading by 77 votes to 44. The Bill needs to pass one more reading before being signed into law [R1.10].

On 27 February 2013, the Parliamentary Select Committee examining the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill reportedly said: “The majority of the committee believes marriage is a human right and it’s unacceptable for the state to deny it to same-sex couples”. The second reading in Parliament is scheduled for Wednesday March 13 [D1.9], [R1.8].

On 29 August 2012, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament in a convincing 80 to 40 conscience vote. It will be six to 12 months before Parliament faces a final vote on the bill [L1.7], [R1.6].

On 27 July 2012, it was reported that as early as August, Parliament would debate the redefinition of marriage in a bill in the name of Labour Party MP Louisa Wall that makes it clear that marriage is a union of two people, “regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity” [R1.5].

In November 2004, the Government announced that it would introduce legislation giving legal status to the relationship of men and women living together but will not recognise same-sex marriages [R1.4].

In December 2002, legislation recognising relationships, regardless of a couple’s gender or sexual orientation, was being promoted by Labour’s Russell Fairbrother and went to a Parliamentary ballot [R1.3].

On 17 July 2002, the Human Rights Committee found that “the Covenant which defines a right by using the term “men and women”, rather than “every human being”, “everyone” and “all persons” means that “mere refusal to provide for marriage between homosexual couples” does not “disclose a violation of any provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” [D1.2], [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 17 December 1997, the full bench of New Zealand’s High Court rejected a bid by three lesbian couples to legalise same-sex relationships [C1.3], [R2.2].

In June 1996, before Justice Kerr in the High Court, a lesbian couple lost their case to be legally married [R2.1].

R1.14 RadioNZ News: Legislation to legalise same-sex marriage passed in Parliament this week has become law 21 APR 13
R1.13 CNN: New Zealand’s Parliament votes to legalize same-sex marriage 17 APR 13
C1.12 Quilter & Pearl & Others -v- The Attorney-General CA200/1996 200kb 17 DEC 97
R1.11 GayNZ: Marriage equality Bill hurtling to final vote 27 MAR 13
R1.10 GayNZ: Marriage equality Bill passes second reading 13 MAR 13
D1.9 Government Administration Committee Report: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill PDF 259.12kb, 26 FEB 13
R1.8 SameSame: NZ Parliament committee backsmarriage equality 27 FEB 13
L1.7 New Zealand Parliament: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill PDF 136.38kb, 31 MAY 12
R1.6 The Dominion Post: Same-sex bill passes first reading 30 AUG 12
R1.5 New Zealand Herald: Same sex marriage has wide support 27 JUL 12
R1.4 The Age: NZ Rules Out Same-sex Marriage 30 NOV 04
R1.3 NZCity: Legislation Allowing Gay People to Marry is Promoted 05 DEC 02
R1.2 Human Rights Committee: Joslin v. New Zealand Communication No. 902/1999 PDF 137.75kb, 17 JUL 02
R1.1 TheAustralianBusinessReview: Overruled on gay marriage, by UN 21 OCT 15
R2.2 Sydney Star Observer: Court Rejects New Zealand Lesbians’ Marriage Bid 24 DEC 97
R2.1 Brother Sister: No Recognition in New Zealand Court 13 JUN 96
Melbourne Star Observe: New Zealand Case Fails 31 MAY 96
Military Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 06 December 2011, the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force was reported to have provided formal approval for the establishment of the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service to support LGBT personnel [R1.3].

In 1993, the Defence Force lifted its ban on openly-gay personnel after the passing of the Human Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on grounds such as ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.


Homosexuality used to be illegal in [the] armed forces [R1.2].

In December 2001, the War Pensions Amendment Bill changed the Social Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Act by moving responsibility for veterans’ pensions to the office of veterans’ affairs. In line with the Social Security Act, it recognises de facto couples of a man and a woman as “married”, but does not recognise same-sex couples in the same way [R1.1].

R1.3 GayNZ: Defence Force sets up lgbt support network 06 DEC 11
R1.2 New Zealand Herald: NZ Military ‘Light Years Ahead’ on Issue of Gays 27 APR 02
The New Zealand Herald, Auckland: Haven for Gays as Navy in the Pink 23 OCT 98
R1.1 The Dominion: Soldier’s Pensions No Cause to be Gay 14 DEC 01
Parenting: Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References
1. National

On 09 April 2014, the unique Sullivan Birth Certificate Bill passed the parliament enabling Rowen Helen Louise Sullivan – born 23 February 1993 in the UK by invitro fertilisation to Diane Sullivan and her New Zealand partner Doreen Shields – to have Doreen Margaret Shields, her co-parent’s name included on her birth certificate. Rowen was formally adopted by Ms Shields in January last year following the death of Sullivan however, the adoption required the removal of Ms Sullivan’s name from Rowen’s post-adoption birth record [R1.7].

On 17 April 2013, the Parliament finally passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Bill introduced by Labour MP Louisa Walls in a 77-44 vote. The Bill amends the definition of “marriage” to mean “… the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”. After being signed into law, sames-sex couples will be able to adopt, effective 19 August 2013 [R1.6].


The law in New Zealand prohibited adoption by an unmarried couple however, individual gay men and lesbians could apply to adopt a child although a certain level of discrimination was expected [L1.5].

Adoption Act 1955 Section 3, Power to make adoption orders (now subject to amendment) [L1.5]

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a Court may, upon an application made by any person whether domiciled in New Zealand or not, make an adoption order in respect of any child, whether domiciled in New Zealand or not.

(2) An adoption order may be made on the application of 2 spouses jointly in respect of a child.

(3) …

On 30 August 2012, the Parliament reportedly would consider the Care of Children Law Reform Bill sponsored by Jacinda Arden of the Labor Party, which if passed into law would update New Zealand’s outdated, discriminatory adoption laws and allow adoption by same-sex couples [L1.4], [R1.3].

In June 2002, Parliament considered allowing gay adoption as part of an inquiry into adoption laws by a select committee last year.

Unable to reach agreement, the committee made no recommendations [R1.2].

In September 2000, the Law Commission recommended that same-sex couples should be able to adopt children [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 18 December 2015, Family Court Judge Ian A McHardy ruled that failure to grant joint adoption to a same-sex de facto couple would be in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, granting all couples, same-sex or heterosexual, the right to apply for joint adoption [R2.7].

On 24 June 2010, High Court Justices John Wild and Simon France ruled (at page 23, para [73]) that it was “… permissible to interpret the expression “spouses” in s 3 of the Adoption Act 1955 so as to include a man and a woman who are unmarried but in a stable and committed relationship” [C2.6], [R2.5].

Although the ruling applied only to heterosexual couples, the judges said (at page 13, para [38]) it would break down a barrier and open the doors for other appeals, raising questions about whether the courts would expand the ruling to include same sex relationships [C2.6].

In August 2009, acting chief judge Paul von Dadelszen of the Family Court said gay and lesbian couples must be allowed to adopt children together [R2.4].

In February 1999, New Zealand’s High Court ordered a woman who raised children with her former lesbian partner to pay child support [R2.3].


In December 1998, a lesbian mother who won child-support payments from her former lover was awaiting the result of the other woman’s High Court appeal [R2.2].

In August 1998, the Family Court in Hamilton awarded a lesbian client child support from her former partner [R2.1].

L 1.8 Bill: Sullivan Birth Certificate Bill Bill 139-2 PDF 158.87kb, 16 DEC 13
R1.7 3News: Wall passes unique bill on behalf of woman 10 APR 14
R1.6 CNN: New Zealand’s Parliament votes to legalize same-sex marriage 17 APR 13
L1.5 Adoption Act 1955 No 93
L1.4 Care of Children Reform Bill PDF 147.27kb, 12 MAR 12
R1.3 GayNZ: ‘Gay adoption’ private members bill drawn 30 AUG 12
R1.2 The Dominion: ‘No’ to Gay Adoption 11 JUN 02
R1.1 New Zealand Herald: Adoption Secrets Out in the Open 01 OCT 00
New Zealand Herald: Gay Lawyers Welcome Recommendations 29 SEP 00
2. Courts & Tribunals
R2.7 GayNZ: Same-sex defacto couples secure the right to adopt 21 DEC 15
C2.6 High Court of New Zealand: A M M and K J O, CIV 2010-485-328PDF 73.95kb, 24 JUN 10
R2.5 stuff: Adoption ruling ‘a beacon of hope’ 26 JUN 10
R2.4 New Zealand judge calls for gay couples to be given right to adopt 20 AUG 09
R2.3 Melbourne Star Observer: Lesbian Partner Must Pay Support 26 FEB 99
R2.2 The New Zealand Herald: Anxious Wait for Lesbian Mother 18 DEC 98
R2.1 TVNZ News, New Zealand: Pleasing Ruling for Lesbian Parent 06 AUG 98
Violence: Bullying, Domestic Violence, Harassment, Vilification Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [HATE CRIME]
1. National

On 25 July 2018, the parliament passed 63-57 the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill, granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children. The Bill received Royal Assent on 30 July 2018 and comes into effect on 01 April 2019 [R1.4].

On 01 July 1996, the Domestic Violence Act [L1.4] came into effect, and by the Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005, the principal Act now protects not only partners or ex-partners but also extended family members, household members, people in close personal relationships (such a care-givers or dating couples), children and people who are incapacitated [R1.3].

Violence or threats of violence are an assault and should be reported to the police.

As some individual police officers have yet to fully embrace the notion that same-sex domestic violence should be treated seriously, you might consider being accompanied by a trusted friend if you intend to report an assault.

As an alternative remedy discuss with your legal advisor the possibility of issuing a warning under the Trespass Act 1980 [L1.2].

If you have a real fear that someone will do you or a member of your household physical harm, an application may be made to have the aggressor enter into bond under Section 186 of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 [L1.1] to keep the peace.

2. Courts & Tribunals

In April 2010, a Christchurch man who was sexually harassed by his male boss was awarded $2,000 in compensation and $270 in costs by the Employment Relations Authority [R2.3].

In March 2010, the Employment Relations Authority found that a restaurant manager was continually harassed and unfairly dismissed by his boss, awarding the man who lasted only three weeks in the job $7,000 damages along with $7,600 in lost wages [R2.2].

In April 2000, a prominent Auckland lesbian won an appeal to have her harassment conviction overturned [R2.1].

R1.4 TheGuardian: ‘A huge win’: New Zealand brings in paid domestic violence leave 26 JUL 18
L1.4 Domestic Violence Act 1995
R1.3 New Zealand “Express”: Fighting on the Home Front 15 AUG 96
L1.2 Trespass Act 1980
L1.1 Summary Proceedings Act 1957
R2.3 Compensation for man harassed by boss 10 APR 10
R2.2 Sexually harassed gay man gets $15k payout 17 MAR 10
R2.1 New Zealand “express”: Stalker Case Overturned – Lesbian Stalker Not Guilty 13 APR 00
Words & Phrases Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

On 20 December 2011, the Broadcasting Standards Authority found that the use of the term “gay” in a One News story about Australians entering into same-sex civil unions in New Zealand –

“ … is commonly accepted and widely used in reference to homosexuals and homosexuality. It is not a derogatory term when used in this manner, and we disagree that it is in the same realm as “poofter” or “faggot”, as alleged by the complainant … [C1.2], [R1.1].

C1.2 Broadcasting Standards Authority: Leitch and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2011-118 20 DEC 11
R1.1 GayNZ: Complaint about the word gay deemed “frivolous” 26 DEC 11