New Zealand MPs have delivered emotional speeches as the country’s parliament apologised to men convicted for homosexuality.
Historical Gay Convictions
Justice Minister Amy Adams (pictured) moved a motion apologising to gay men convicted of consensual sex before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986 “and recognise the tremendous hurt and suffering those men and their families have gone through.”
“Many hundreds of New Zealand men [were] turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong and for that we’re sorry,” she said.
She said the parliament was acknowledging the continued impact that the convictions have had on the men’s lives, which still affect their employment and travel.
“It is never too late to apologise. While we cannot ever erase the injustice, this apology is a symbolic but important act that we hope will help address the harm and right this historic wrong,” she said.
A bill currently before the parliament would allow the men unjustly convicted under the old laws to apply to have the convictions expunged from their criminal records.
Opposition MP Grant Robertson was among those who paid tribute to the “bravery and courage” of the New Zealand gay men who lived and campaigned before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986, including a group who put their careers at risk by signing a letter in the New Zealand Herald that year supporting reform.
Robertson said he and his partner Alf will soon celebrate their two-decade anniversary and a decade of sharing a civil union, “all things which are your legacy.”
“The fact that I, as a gay man, can be out and proud and a member of parliament is but a small tribute to you… I respect you, I honour you and I stand on your shoulders today.”
He urged families of men who had since died to apply for a pardon on their behalf “to give dignity in death to your relatives that this Parliament did not allow them in life.”
LGBTI group Rainbow Wellington welcomed the apology.
They have expressed sorrow for the men affected and hoped that with the apology “a small part of their defamed human dignity will be restored.”
“Rainbow Wellington has faith that this action will build trust between the victims and the government who discriminated against them,” they said in a statement.
The group called on the New Zealand government to better recognise gender and sexual minorities and address current forms of discrimination “including in access to healthcare, blood donation, trans-phobia in government services, lack of funding to community groups, high rates of youth suicide, and a lack of support services.”
In May, Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk apologised to gay Queensland men with similar convictions, and the parliament is currently examining a bill that would expunge similar historical convictions of Queensland men.