• MP Amy Adams of the National Party speaks during question time at Parliament on June 17, 2009 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Getty Images AsiaPac (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images))Source: Getty Images AsiaPac (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)
“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."
By
Michaela Morgan

7 Jul 2017 - 10:28 AM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2017 - 10:28 AM

The New Zealand parliament has formally apologised to hundreds of gay men who were convicted under historic anti-LGBT laws before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986.

Justice Minister Amy Adams (not to be confused with the Oscar-deserving, Justice League actress of the same name) moved for the motion to apologise to those who were prosecuted—which was unanimously passed by members of parliament.

“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,” Adams said.

“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.”

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The announcement comes after news that gay men in England and Wales will be pardoned under 'Turing's Law'.

Adams went on to say that the apology was another landmark for LGBT+ rights in New Zealand, a country that legalised same-sex marriage in 2013. 

“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."

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Lord Sharkey, the politician behind the legislation, described it as "a momentous day".

Adams said it was the first expungement scheme to ever 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,” she said.

It is estimated that there about 1000 men prosecuted under anti-gay laws who are still alive in New Zealand and can now apply for their criminal record to be expunged.

Thousands of gay men were pardoned in the UK earlier this year under 'Turing's law' and Germany’s parliament voted last month to clear the names of 50,000 men convicted under Nazi-era anti-gay laws.