RNZ’s Eyewitness series takes us back to Parliament on the night of 17 April 2013 and the third and final reading of the Bill in front of a packed public gallery.
This historic Bill, granting same sex couples in New Zealand the right to marry, came nearly thirty years after the Homosexual Law Reform Act of 1986, which decriminalised homosexual acts between consenting adults, and just nine years after the passing of the Civil Union Law in 2004. Since the passing of the Bill into law, more than two thousand gay and lesbian couples have since exercised their legal right to marry.
Sitting in the gallery that night were two very special witnesses to this moment of history. For seven years Kapiti Coast couple Jenny Rowan and Jools Joslin had argued in court for the right to marry and had been denied at every turn.
In 1995 Jools and Jenny were one of three lesbian couples in New Zealand who each applied for a licence to marry. Their applications were denied. They challenged that decision in the High Court and then again in the Court of Appeal. They lost, both times, in what became known as the Quilter case. In 1998 Jools and Jenny sued New Zealand before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the grounds of discrimination but again lost.