The Soap Box: Govt apology 30 years overdue

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 6 July 2017, 5:31AM
Justice Minister Amy Adams announcing the decision to quash historic homosexual offences, during a press conference at Parliament in February. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Justice Minister Amy Adams announcing the decision to quash historic homosexual offences, during a press conference at Parliament in February. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It's inconceivable to today's generation that homosexuals were once arrested because of their sexual proclivity.

But that was the case just over 30 years ago, they were breaking the law before Labour's Fran Wilde bravely, and not without considerable personal cost, changed it.

Today the Justice Minister will formally apologise to around a thousand men who've lived with convictions against their name for indulging in homosexual acts. And not before time, it's more than 30 years overdue.

Amy Adams will move a motion in Parliament before the first reading of a bill which will see their convictions wiped. She'll acknowledge the tremendous hurt and suffering the men and their families have gone through and the continued effects the convictions have had on them.

If anyone had any doubt about how society operated way back then they should reflect on the story of the SIS spy's briefcase that was delivered to my office in 1981 by the son of colleague Fran O'Sullivan who's now head of business at NZME. We were amused to find a couple of pies and a Penthouse in the briefcase which was left on a fence just around the former from Parliament.

The amusement turned sour though when along with the identifying wallet there was a notebook which outlined the activities of two men who were having dinner together and the suspicion that they were more than just good buddies.

But then it was a time when homosexuality was seen as aberrant behaviour by some and was even used as a political weapon by the then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon against an MP who was talked about as a possible Labour leader Colin Moyle.

In Parliament Muldoon referred to Moyle's "effeminate giggles" and went on to accuse him of having been questioned by the police on suspicion of homosexual activities. It ruined Moyle's career, and after changing his story several times, he resigned from Parliament saying " the whole thing just made me sick."
In a later interview he said the scandal made him a sadder but wiser person.

It was said Muldoon saw Moyle as a threat but the bigger threat was about to come from the by election his resignation caused. It brought David Lange into Parliament and one of his early acts was to give his seal of approval to Wilde's bill legalising homosexuality which is finally having its sequel in Parliament today.

At the time of the bill's passing Muldoon was appearing on stage in fishnet stockings and stilettos, narrating the Rocky Horror Picture Show!

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