New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously passes apology for anti-LGBT laws
New Zealand MPs unanimously passed a motion of apology for the country’s historical anti-LGBT laws.
The country’s Justice Minister Amy Adams had moved a motion to apologise to those convicted under anti-gay laws, that were scrapped in 1986.
The motion was passed this morning unanimously, with all of the MPs present voting in favour.
Ms Adams said: “Today we are putting on the record that this House deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the many hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong, and for that we are sorry.
“We are acknowledging that these men should never have been burdened with criminal convictions, and we are recognising the continued effects that the convictions have had on their lives and the lives of their families.”
She added: “Almost 4 years ago this Parliament passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 to allow same-sex couples to legally marry, and I was proud to vote in favour of it.
“Today is another historic day for the New Zealand gay community and their families as Parliament formally apologises for the hurt caused by the convictions and takes the first reading of a bill to expunge those convictions. It is never too late to apologise.
“While we cannot ever erase the injustice, this apology is a symbolic but an important act that we hope will help address the harm and right this historic role.
“This bill seeks to address the ongoing stigma, prejudice, and other negative effects arising from a conviction for a historical homosexual offence by creating a statutory scheme for a convicted person, or a representative on their behalf if that person is deceased, to apply for the conviction to be expunged.
“This is the first expungement scheme ever to be created in New Zealand, reflecting the uniqueness of the situation.
“I cannot think of any other situation where a Government in this country would seek to rewrite criminal histories based on changes in societal views.”
It is estimated that around 1,000 people may be eligible to apply under the scheme, based on analysis of conviction data published by the then Department of Statistics on people convicted of indecency between males, which was the most common offence prosecuted between 1965 and 1986.
The minister explained the bill was modelled on a number of schemes in Australian states, England, and Wales.
The bill was welcomed by MPs from across the House.
Labour’s Grant Robertson said: “Let us be clear. The illegality of homosexuality, the arrests and the imprisonments, and the fear of that happening did not just ruin lives and destroy potential. It killed people.
“Hundreds, 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.
“It is for all of that that we must apologise, and as a Government and as a Parliament, to those men who are still alive and to those who have passed on and their families.
“To those families, it is important that you take the opportunity afforded by this legislation to give dignity in death to your relatives that this Parliament did not allow them in life.”
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National MP Paul Foster-Bell acknowledged the legacy of colonialism, given the British origin of the country’s anti-LGBT laws.
He said: “We inherited much that is good from our colonial and imperial forebears, but the persecution of gay men, in particular, was one of those things that we inherited through our Crimes Act.
“It was embedded by an Act of this Parliament in 1908, and further embedded in 1961. And, frankly, in my view, those were measures that actually brought shame upon this House and diminished our mana as a legislature that should have pride in being fair minded, treating people equally, and supporting a country that values diversity.
“I think, in considering this bill today, we are going some way to restoring mana to this House, which might otherwise have been diminished by those steps in the past.”