Gays deserve apology for years of legal oppression
Thirty years ago the Homosexual Law Reform bill received the royal assent. This makes it sound as though the era of antigay barbarism is now safely buried. It’s not.
Many gay people still live with the consequences of those times. They suffer the long-term damage to their psyche of having to deny a fundamental part of their nature. Some also still suffer the stigma of a criminal conviction.
Campaigners want a Government apology to gay people for laws now recognised as indefensible. A petition seeks a mass pardon for gay men convicted under those laws.
Justice Minister Amy Adams predictably says this is too hard.
But there is nothing stopping the Government from apologising. It routinely apologises to iwi for denying them their rights.
The Clark Labour Government apologised to the Chinese community for the racist laws that targeted a single ethnic group.
Why can’t the Government apologise to gays? The laws against them were brutal.
A law from 1893 made sodomy punishable by life in jail with hard labour; ‘‘indecency between males’’ could earn a decade of hard labour and flogging. In 1961 the punishment for sodomy was reduced to seven years, and for indecency between males to five.
A petition seeks a pardon for men convicted of homosexual acts that are now legal. This campaign does not seek pardons for paedophiles. Nobody will defend homosexuals who slept with children or committed rape.
Adams says the record doesn’t distinguish clearly between consensual and forced sexual acts. Ministry of Justice electronic records are said to show that between July 1980 and August 1986, 879 men were convicted of homosexual offences.
Nearly 80 per cent were allegedly convicted of sexual offences with males under 16, which are still criminal offences. The remaining 20 per cent involved males over 16.
These statistics, if they can be trusted, don’t support Adams’ claim that ‘‘it’s all too difficult’’. The 168 cases involving males over 16 should be examined to determine whether they were consensual. If they were, the people involved should be pardoned.
Also the electronic record covers only a short period of history. The modern era of antigay legislation goes back to 1961. Gays convicted during that period deserve consideration and the chance of a pardon.
Adams has no excuse for doing nothing. Justice is at stake.