Germany Pardons Its Citizens Convicted of Homosexuality; New Zealand May as Well

Germany Pardons Its Citizens Convicted of Homosexuality; New Zealand May as Well

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There’s been quite a bit of good news out of Germany lately. We already told you how Germany is on the verge of legalizing marriage equality. That’s not all — on June 23, the German Parliament unanimously voted to pardon the 50,000 men convicted of homosexuality.

For the convicted men, not only has their record been cleaned, 5,000 men who are still alive will get €3,000, plus an additional €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.

Germany had banned homosexuality starting the year of its founding, 1871. The law remained in place — and was made even stronger during the Nazi era. After World War II, when most of the Nazi laws had been repealed, the Nazi version of the gay law stayed in place until a soft decriminalization in 1969, and its final repeal in 1994.

Germany isn’t the only country attempting to fix past mistakes. Earlier this year, the United Kingdom passed “Turing’s Law” which did the same thing. The unofficial name comes from the World War II codebreaker Alan Turing. Turing’s brilliant work is one of the things directly responsible for the Allies winning the war. He was rewarded for his service by the UK by being arrested for homosexuality and chemically castrated. Turing is said to have killed himself over his treatment.

Turing himself was posthumously pardoned in 2013 — after years of his family fighting the government for it. However, the United Kingdom refused to pardon anyone else convicted of homosexuality even as late as 2016.

New Zealand is also joining the trend. On June 28, their government announced that they were introducing legislation to pardon anyone convicted of homosexuality before 1986, when the law was changed. If the bill passes, almost 200 people will have their convictions erased.

Unfortunately, that’s not all the people in New Zealand who had been convicted of homosexuality. The bill does not apply to those who were also convicted of other crimes. The bill also requires those who were convicted to petition the government to have their conviction erased.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Justice considered issuing a blanket pardon, but decided to do so “could have a negative impact” on people who “did not want to revisit their conviction.” They also worried it would require significant resources to do so.

New Zealand also considered a Royal prerogative of mercy, which is a formal pardon used for miscarriages of justice. However, the Ministry felt it could “weaken the significance of past pardons.”

While we applaud New Zealand for putting their plan into action, we definitely question their approach. In terms of their idea of this being a “lesser” miscarriage of justice — we’re not sure that’s so. After all, being arrested for being who you are seems like the definition of a miscarriage of justice. And, well, as far as resources go — well, whose fault is that for not doing the right thing earlier? As for the folks who don’t want to revist the convictions — we fail to see how receiving a letter saying their record is now clean would be troublesome.

If only New Zealand were more like Germany in this regard.

Featured image by Brian A. Jackson via iStockPhoto.

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