Metro Weekly

New Zealand will allow men to remove historical gay sex convictions

One politician said "hundreds or possibly thousands" of lives were lost due to the law

Photo Credit: Kevin Goebel/flickr.

New Zealand has passed a law allowing men convicted of homosexual offenses to have the charges removed from their record.

Citizens who were convicted for homosexuality prior to decriminalization in 1986 will be able to apply to have the charge expunged from their record, or, if they have died, a family member can apply to clear their name.

Several members of New Zealand’s Parliament made heartfelt speeches in support of the bill. One of the most personal came from openly gay Finance Minister Grant Robinson, who said that homophobic laws were not only hurtful, but deadly.

“It killed people,” Robinson said. “Hundreds or possibly thousands of lives have been lost because men could not bear the shame, the stigma, and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way that society viewed them as criminals.”

Robertson said apologies should also be given to men who were not convicted, but still lived through the law.

“In the face of discrimination, in the fact of hate…we also owe all of you an apology,” he said.

However, while the legislation will allow gay men to clear their records, it will not provide compensation for convictions. Justice Minister Andrew Little said in Parliament that compensation was not being considered due to it being “too problematic and too complex to contemplate.”

“The difficulty with compensation is that there will be different circumstances for different people that might call for varying levels of compensation and that then makes it very complex and very complicated,” he said. “It would be equally unfair to say ‘right, everybody gets the same amount.’”

Nearly 1000 men were convicted of homosexual relations between 1965 to 1986. Of those, 138 were given jail time while the others were fined or given community service.

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