Should we pay compensation for expunged gay sex convictions?

Homosexual law reform bill
Image: Gay Express

Men convicted for having consensual gay sex before New Zealand changed its law should be compensated for their ruined lives, a group of MPs was repeatedly told today.

Three separate submitters to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee on Thursday raised the subject of compensation while submitting on a bill that will expunge convictions of men who were found guilty of having consensual gay sex before the law change in 1986.

Homosexual sex was legalised in 1986 after a firestorm of protests and counter-protests, but the convictions under the old law still stand.

Despite the law change the men held onto a sex conviction which often saw them denied jobs and other opportunities.

This is the first ever “expungement scheme” in New Zealand history.

So we are making history by expunging what were lawful convictions at the time.

The bill has passed its first reading with the support of all parties in Parliament before the election.

The Justice Ministry believes there are around 1000 men still alive who were convicted under the old law, but families could also apply to have their relatives’ convictions expunged.

Former Justice Minister Amy Adams specifically ruled out compensation when she introduced the bill earlier this year, and new Justice Minister Andrew Little said today he didn’t think including it in the legislation would be a good idea.

Representatives from Young Labour told the committee – which includes Adams – compensation was essential.

“These laws ruined lives and we need to do more than apologise, we need to give something back to them,” Young Labour’s Alka Ahirao said.[…]

No, we don’t.  They were convicted under the law as it stood at the time.  Money isn’t a reset button, it’s not going to turn back the clock and let them re-live their lives without a conviction.

-Stuff


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