Parliament apologies for 'profoundly wrong' convictions of gay men

Parliament has apologised to gay men who were convicted under old homosexual laws, and unanimously passed the first reading of a Bill to wipe their convictions.

"Today we're putting on the record that this House deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong and for that we are sorry," Justice Minister Amy Adams said on Thursday.

The Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill will allow men who were convicted of homosexual offences, which were decriminalised in 1986, to apply to have their convictions expunged from their records.

MPs in Parliament acknowledged the suffering of the men who were convicted under the laws, and the continued effects this had on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. "It is never too late to apologise," Ms Adams said.

An estimated 1000 people will be eligible to apply to have their convictions expunged under the scheme, and families are able to apply on behalf of those who have deceased. The scheme will only apply to consensual acts.

The first reading of the Bill and the motion for Parliament to apologise to the men who were convicted was passed unanimously.

Labour MP Grant Robertson said: "Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been lost because men could not bear the shame, the stigma and the hurt caused by this Parliament and the way that society viewed them as criminals."

Green MP Jan Logie said to the men who were convicted: "I want to say clearly, the shame does not belong with you, the shame belongs with this Parliament and our society for robbing you of your inherent and inalienable rights."

Māori party Co-Leader Marama Fox said: "We can't make up for the years that have been wasted coming to this point, but we can help to lift the burden and we can help to send a message to our young people of today that you don't have to be ashamed, you can stand proud, and you can find support."