28 Aug 2016

Call for views on gay pardon petition

2:49 pm on 28 August 2016

People can now have their say on a petition seeking an official pardon for men who were prosecuted last century for being gay.

March in support of Homosexual Law reform Bill, 1986 by David Hindley

March in support of Homosexual Law reform Bill, 1986 by David Hindley Photo: David Hindley

Hundreds of men were convicted before New Zealand passed the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986, which removed criminal penalties.

The Justice and Electoral Committee is now accepting public submissions on the petition, which was signed by 2111 people and presented to Parliament in July this year.

Gay rights petition organiser Wiremu Demchick calls for pardon of prosecuted gay men.

Gay rights petition organiser Wiremu Demchick calls for pardon of prosecuted gay men. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It asks for a formal apology to those who were convicted, and for legislation to be passed that would expunge their convictions.

Petition organiser, Wiremu Demchick, said it was time for an official acknowledgment that the gay community was wronged and he believes most New Zealanders would support it.

"In my experience during this petition, most people are definitely in favour of the aims of the petition.

"However this is a democratic process and I'm not concerned about people opposing it, I think it's good to hear everyone's opinion on the matter."

An official apology and pardon was an important move, and one that would mean a lot to the rainbow community, he said.

"It would be a clear aknowledgement of past wrongs. That is always something I think is important to communities that have been wronged, especially given the fact that many people who have been wronged in this case are still living. I think it will have particular significance."

Mr Demchick said when he first presented the petition to the select committee, he had asked for the public to have its say on it.

"This is an issue where hearing the voices of the public, and particularly the rainbow community, is important. I'm very glad it's got to the stage it has. I didn't foresee it, it certainly exceeded my expectations."

Submissions close on 6 October.

A march in support of homosexual law reform in Wellington on 24 May 1985.

A march in support of homosexual law reform in Wellington on 24 May 1985. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library / http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22878952

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