Oscar Kightley: The wrong's righted, now for the reparations

Labour's Grant Robertson highlighted the importance of an apology when he told parliament last week that many gay men ...
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Labour's Grant Robertson highlighted the importance of an apology when he told parliament last week that many gay men took their lives because they couldn't live with the shame, stigma and hurt caused by the law.

OPINION: While we were enjoying this week the return of the America's Cup and the build-up to last night's Lions test series decider, in Wellington history was made.

Parliament put its collective hand up in front of - and on behalf of - the country and said in a loud, clear voice to gay New Zealanders that it really was wrong to persecute them for all those years.

Homosexuality wasn't decriminalised here until 1986, but even then, convictions stayed on the record books and show up in criminal checks.

Oscar Kightley says the parliament saying sorry to those persecuted by New Zealand's laws on homosexuality is just the ...
CHRIS SKELTON/STUFF

Oscar Kightley says the parliament saying sorry to those persecuted by New Zealand's laws on homosexuality is just the first step to a genuine apology.

They could have been wiped when the law changed back then, but that particular bill was narrowly defeated. It was like parliament was saying: "Now it's OK to be gay, but if you were caught being gay before, you're still a criminal."

* Parliament apologises for homosexual convictions
'Broad-brush' wiping of homosexual convictions ruled out 
Calls for gay men convicted for homosexuality to be compensated​

Now a bill had it's first reading this week that will right that wrong. In introducing it, Justice Minister Amy Adams made the point that it's unimaginable today that we would criminalise consensual sexual activity between adults.

There's an estimated 1000 men alive, who will be affected.  Those who have died can be represented by their families in applying to have cases wiped.

There are no court proceedings and no requirement for a personal appearance.

Still, it's New Zealand's laws – adopted from Britain - that were wrong. Why can't the government just go through the cases themselves, and then contact the affected people to let them know when it's all good.

It's another sign that petitions work. That this bill had it's first reading this week, is down to a petition presented to MPs last year.

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There are no plans for compensation. Similar bills in the UK do not include compensation, but Germany's does to the tune of $44.5 million. Perhaps there will have to be more petitions in order for that to happen in New Zealand.

Labour's Grant Robertson said many gay men took their lives because they couldn't live with the shame, stigma and hurt caused by the law.

Adams said the apology was important because it demonstrated Parliament "…reflecting the fact that we now recognise that that legal framework was inappropriate".

She also said: "I will move that the House apologise to those homosexual New Zealanders who were convicted for consensual adult activity, and recognise the tremendous hurt and suffering those men and their families have gone through, and the continued effects the convictions have had on them."

So there's clear acknowledgement that this "inappropriate legal framework" no doubt caused a heck of a lot of hurt and suffering through multiple generations.

According to a thorough search through the paddock of all knowledge, the interweb, the anatomy of a good apology has six components:

Expression of regret

Explanation of what went wrong

Acknowledgement of responsibility

Declaration of repentance

Offer of repair

Request for forgiveness

Apologies generally seem to stop after that first one and most don't tend to come with the offer of repair.  But you'd think that in the case of this particular apology, an "offer of repair" would be fair enough. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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