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Praise for wiping homosexual convictions

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/02/2017
Natasha Vitali (L) and Melissa Ray (R) kiss as they leave the Auckland Unitary Church on a horse drawn cart following their wedding on August 19, 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage as of August 19, 2013. New Zealand is the first coutry in Oceania to leaglize same-sex marriage. © Phil Walter/Getty Images/Getty Images Natasha Vitali (L) and Melissa Ray (R) kiss as they leave the Auckland Unitary Church on a horse drawn cart following their wedding on August 19, 2013 in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage as of August 19, 2013. New Zealand is the first coutry in Oceania to leaglize same-sex marriage.

The government has won praise from the opposition Labour Party and it's support partner ACT for deciding that men convicted of homosexual acts that are now legal will be able to apply to have their convictions expunged.

Justice Minister Amy Adams made the announcement on Thursday.

She apologised for the hurt that had been caused by the convictions and said she would introduce legislation to parliament later this year.

Labour's justice spokesman, Jacinda Ardern, said the move was "hugely positive" and would right some terrible wrongs.

"It will go some way to healing the distress that many of the victims of past laws and their families still live with," she said.

However, Ms Ardern questioned whether it could have gone further.

"We were hoping that some categories of offences could have been dealt with in a more straightforward way," she said.

ACT leader David Seymour said Ms Adams had done "absolutely the right thing".

"I'm pleased she's done it because it's absolutely wrong for people to continue to be vilified 30 years later for something that should never have been a crime," he said.

The legislation Ms Adams is drafting will allow people with specific convictions relating to consensual sexual activity between men 16 years and over, which was decriminalised in 1986, to apply for free to the Secretary of Justice to have the conviction expunged.

Specific convictions include indecency between males, sodomy and keeping places of resort for homosexual acts.

"There is no doubt that homosexual New Zealanders who were convicted and branded as criminals for consensual activity suffered tremendous hurt and stigma and we are sorry for what those men and their families have gone through and the continued effect the convictions have had on them," she said.

It's the first time New Zealand has sought to allow to expunge convictions because views and laws have changed.

Ms Adams said a blanket process for expungement had been considered but wouldn't be appropriate because the law against homosexuality didn't distinguish between consensual and non-consensual activity.

About 1000 men are expected to be eligible, while family members will be able to apply on behalf of people who have since died.

"The only question to be answered in the application process will be whether the conduct would still be criminal today," Ms Adams said.

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