New Zealand LGBTIQ rights activists have called on the New Zealand government to reconsider compensation for men whose lives were “wrecked” by their historical gay sex convictions.
Last year, former justice minister Amy Adams apologised to the gay men who were convicted for engaging in consensual sex prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986.
The government is working towards expunging the criminal records of an estimated 1000 New Zealand men still living with the convictions, but has ruled out financial compensation for them.
Several submissions to a parliamentary committee said men should be compensated for the harm they suffered, but others disagreed, the committee said.
Veteran LGBTIQ rights campaigner Bill Logan said New Zealand should follow the “civilised” example of Germany and Canada in giving compensation to the men whose lives were ruined by the convictions.
“People’s lives have been wrecked by an injustice that was done to them by the law and it is really the least they can expect to have some kind of recompense in their old age for this rather terrible thing that has happened to them,” he told The Guardian.
“Perhaps if they [the government] do nothing there won’t be too much a fuss and it will go away. But I think that we’ve got to make it clear if they don’t do something, there’s going to be a much bigger problem.”
A spokesperson for the Justice Ministry told The Guardian the government was not considering compensation.
“It is very difficult to quantify actual harm – and not just to people who were convicted,” the spokesperson said.
“LGBT people who were not convicted missed out on opportunities because of fear of the unjust law, and many who were convicted have passed away. What is most important is absolving people of unjust convictions.”
LGBTIQ rights campaigner Wiremu Demchick told the publication the issue of compensation had divided New Zealand’s LGBTIQ community, with some feeling an apology and pardon were enough and wary that pushing for compensation would have made the original battle even harder.
“There was a feeling that going much further than that would not be very helpful towards the overall goal of reconciliation in the community,” he said.
No compensation for Australian men still affected by their historical gay convictions has been proposed in any of the several proposed expungement schemes around the country, nor the UK, which posthumously pardoned thousands of affected men in January 2017.
Last year, the German government offered gay men who were convicted under the country’s historical laws a lump sum of €3,000 ($AUD4800) as well as an additional €1,500 ($AUD2400) for each year they spent in prison.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised to his country’s LGBTIQ community for historical discrimination in November last year. The Canadian government at the time reportedly earmarked $110 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by LGBTIQ-identifying military and other federal agency workers who were targeted on the basis of their sexuality.