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MP wants apology over old anti-gay laws

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/07/2016

As parliament marks the 30th anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform Act, Green MP Kevin Hague says an apology from the government to those convicted under the old anti-gay laws for consensual acts would be a "small but crucial step".

Mr Hague tabled Wiremu Demchick's petition in parliament on Wednesday which calls for an official apology to, and pardon of, people convicted of consensual homosexual acts before 1986.

"Convictions for consensual sex between men blighted the lives of many, and the government is obliged to do what it can to put things right," Mr Hague said.

"Hundreds of people in New Zealand today still feel the stigma and trauma associated with that time, when people were fired from their jobs, harassed or thrown out of home just for being gay."

Mr Hague said people who were convicted under the historic anti-homosexual laws shouldn't have to continue to live with those convictions on their records.

"It might seem like a lifetime ago, but I remember what living under this law was like, and many people still live with this hanging over their head," he said.

"This is a small but crucial step that we can make now, with the benefit of hindsight, to say that the criminalisation of consensual sex was wrong, and that we stand on the right side of history."

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she has discussed the issue with Mr Hague previously, but it's more complicated than simply offering a blanket apology.

She told reporters the old law didn't distinguish between consensual and non-consensual acts, so it would be a matter of going through each case and making a determination.

However, Ms Adams said she would be happy to look at any individual cases that were brought to her attention.

The petition will now be considered by a select committee.

The Homosexual Law Reform bill - a private member's bill sponsored by then-Labour MP Fran Wilde - passed its final reading in parliament on July 9, 1986.

There will be an event at parliament on Wednesday evening to celebrate the anniversary.

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