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Pardon petition needs community action

Sun 7 Dec 2014 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

The man behind a petition calling for New Zealand men to be pardoned of historical gay sex convictions is urging the community to take up the cause and collect signatures this summer. It's been almost 30 years since Homosexual Law Reform. Image: David Hindley. Almost 30 years on from Homosexual Law Reform, New Zealand has never mass-wiped pre law reform gay sex convictions. There is capacity for people to have their conviction “omitted” - the 2004 Clean Slate Act does not automatically conceal sexual offences from someone's record, but people can apply to a District Court to have their conviction disregarded. Following progress in the area in Australia, new Justice Minister Amy Adams has stated she is open to resuming discussions about gay sex convictions being completely expunged. This sparked Wellington man Wiremu Demchick to create a petition pushing for a complete pardon. He says while it might be slightly embarrassing, until he read the news reports he didn’t know a pardon had never occurred. “I had sort of assumed that sometime shortly after they had repealed the legislation, they had also gone through with a pardon, but that didn’t happen.” Demchick suspects at the time, law reform was victory enough. “I thought we should push this, because the government seemed to be keen, but they also seemed to think it was a fairly low priority. I thought one thing we could do was at least tell the government ‘this is a high priority thing for us. These people have suffered quite enough’.” He works in IT, and has set up a website explaining the cause. It also hosts the petition, which can easily be downloaded, printed off and sent back to him when full of signatures. He’s also circulated it at Wellington venues. Demchick would love traction and needs people to take up the cause and get more signatures. The petition doesn’t close until 25 February, so there is ample opportunity for it to be circulated at major upcoming events such as Auckland’s Big Gay Out and Wellington’s Out in the Park. “That’s what I’d love to get going,” Demchick says. “At community events, or if people pass it around their groups of friends. Whatever.” Of course support for the petition doesn’t have to be limited to the lgbti community. “I think it’s something actually a lot of New Zealanders would support – even if they don’t consider themselves gay rights activists.” Green MP Jan Logie has been supportive and he says she seems keen to be the politician who eventually presents it to Parliament. Like, Demchick is also looking for men who still hold such convictions who wish to speak out as part of the campaign. “It’s hard to find people that want to talk about it,” he says, explaining many have lived lives which were mostly spent hiding their true selves. He knows of one man who didn’t come out until he was 65. “I think that’s actually quite a common story, from what I can gather. It’s a little bit hard to find people … but if there are any of your readers who [have convictions] who would be keen to work with me on this, I would be very much appreciative. I can’t carry the same message that they can.” can be contacted via or 09 412 6067. How can you help? It’s easy. Download and print the petition. Get everyone you know to sign it. Then post it back to Wiremu Demchick. And if you can volunteer to collect signatures at major events, let him know. All details on the campaign website here     

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Sunday, 7th December 2014 - 9:17am

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