New Zealand appoints first openly gay High Court judge

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New Zealand has appointed its first openly gay lawyer as a High Court judge.

Mr Matthew Muir was raised to the bench of the country’s highest court last week, becoming the first out member of the court.

Rights lawyer Alan Ivory – who fought for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in New Zealand back in the 1980s – praised the moment as “game over” on the matter of equality, bringing events full circle.

He told GayNZ: “I think it’s perfectly clear that the game’s over.

“It’s as simple as that… we’ve won completely.

“The appointment of an openly gay high court judge means society has turned around 180 degrees.

“We have always had gay people at all levels of society but what we have now is gay people openly all through society.

“There’s absolutely nothing now in the way of an openly gay Governor General because the sexuality of a Governor General is now absolutely irrelevant.

“We always knew [decriminalisation] was always an educative proposal, not a criminal proposal, because actually very few people were being prosecuted.

“What we knew was that it would change society and that it would make us acceptable, far from ever thinking that we would get gay marriage or an appointment to the high court, we didn’t even dream of that.

“Our objective was much narrower, and that was to shift us into a position where we could claim acceptability.

“While we were criminals we couldn’t claim acceptability. Once we ceased to be criminals we could then start to insist on being treated as acceptable people in society.”

A press release says: “Justice Muir graduated with an LLB (Hons) from Auckland University in 1981 and became a staff solicitor with Holmden Horrocks & Co in Auckland. In 1984 he took leave from Holmden Horrocks for postgraduate studies at the University of Virginia, graduating with an LLM.

“In 1985 Justice Muir joined the partnership of Holmden Horrocks, working in civil litigation. He left that firm in 1988 to join the partnership of Buddle Findlay, based in their Auckland office and specialising in commercial and banking litigation.

“Justice Muir went to the independent bar in 1994 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2013.

“The new Judge will sit in Auckland.”