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Homosexual law reform; then and now.

By Euan Thomson in All Sorts

how can we practise inclusiveness with those who still treat homosexual acts as criminal?

LAST YEAR THE U.K. celebrated 50 years since the passing of the law decriminalising homosexual acts between men. (There had never been a similar law regarding women.) In NZ we had to endure a further 19 years until the passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986. Until then Malcolm and I were criminals who could have been jailed for loving one another. Further reforms in subsequent years have brought emancipation for gay and lesbian people in this country. You can imagine how much I value these changes which were bitterly opposed by many, particularly by religious authorities. Maybe you signed the petition against law reform promoted by the Salvation Army?
I have recently returned from a visit to Malaysia, a predominantly Moslem country where allegations of sodomy were used to jail a potential prime minister. Last month in neighbouring Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, police forcibly cut the hair of a group of transgender women and made them wear “male” clothing amid a crackdown on the LGBT community. They were held in jail for “re-education” until they acted like “real men”.
The editorial of the NZ Listener for March 10 comments on the refusal of an Iranian delegation to shake the hand of a female MP and of two male MPs who, in solidarity with their colleague, refused to shake the hands of the visitors. It states that “it is our duty as hosts to ensure that people’s boundaries are respected,” but goes on to say that “equally, we’re entitled to make it clear what our boundaries are. Discrimination against women will be viewed as disrespectful in New Zealand! In the same way as we deplore it on the grounds of race or sexual orientation. We do not need to be confrontational about it, but we do need to be clear.”
The Dunedin Methodist Parish rightly welcomes and supports the Moslem refugee families making new homes in our community. Some are coming from societies where gay men are publicly executed by being thrown from the tops of buildings, where women may not drive or work or have legal recourse when they are assaulted. If the simple act of shaking a woman’s hand is unacceptable, how do we as Christian friends respond to other cultural and religious practices with which we disagree?
Perhaps our parish has already answered this question. We have chosen to accept as our next Presbyter and Parish Superintendent a gay man in a long-term relationship. Our welcome to and support for David and Darren will be our opportunity to announce to our friends and to the wider community our belief in the equality and human rights of all people, male and female, young and old, black and white, gay and straight. In the words of our beloved Colin Gibson,
“We’re the family of God who finds nothing strange or odd, who delights in individuality,
Be we bald or richly blessed, be we shaggy, shaved or tressed, we’re the family of God, Yes, you and me.”
Euan Thomson