Oral submission to the Justice Select Committee Thursday December 7 2017
Thank you for granting this time to support our submission on the Bill.
I am Susan Jones,Senior Minister at St Andrews on The Terrace Presbyterian Church, and with me is Mrs Pat Booth who assisted greatly in the preparation of our submission. We are the only ones here today from St Andrew’s but we have with us these three pages with 52 signatures of people from our community. Please imagine them standing behind us as we make our submission.
As we said in our written submission we support this Bill and were thrilled at its existence. We want to pay tribute to the then Minister of Justice Amy Adams and the National led government for getting this on the books.
St Andrew’s on The Terrace has a reputation for supporting the rainbow community. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of homosexual law reform in a special church service last year. We include all people in our community.
At first, I thought these expungements should be automatic. With such a wide sweeping law reform, I felt, and others with me, that the recompense should be equally wide sweeping. However, one of our gay members pointed out that going through a process of application might be a journey which was psychologically important to those criminalised during those years. So, either way would probably work – one better for some than the other.
In either case we want to emphasis careful and sensitive handling of applications and applicants. By definition, some of them will be older men or bereaved families. For both groups this will bring back a difficult period of their history. We urge training for the front-line staff who will be dealing with the processing of applications. I am sure Rainbow Wellington could help you with this process. Those on the desk at the end of the phone need to understand what this process will mean for those applying for expungement. While there will be need for careful identification, can this process be carried out very, very carefully, please.
If St Andrew’s on The Terrace can provide any pastoral support, please get in touch with us, we are just around the corner.
Also, we asked in our submission for recognition to be made in speeches around the passing of the Bill of all those families who, while their family member may not have been convicted of a criminal offence in relation to homosexuality nevertheless lived in fear and ignorance exacerbated by NZ law during that time. The existence of the possibility of criminal convictions delayed acceptance of especially gay men in NZ society. One of our elderly members remembers with pain the lack of knowledge she personally had about homosexuality. This grossly affected the relationship with her gay son. For her, at the time, homosexuals were criminals. She deeply regrets that because of the climate of the times, when he died of HIV AIDS, it was thought necessary to use ‘cancer’ as a euphemism to explain his fatal illness. She deeply regrets the climate of the times did not support open and frank conversation between the closest family members. The scars of this are still potent and raw decades later. As she nears the end of her life, these memories of miscommunication and the inability to offer the kind of support which now was clearly needed, poignantly form part of her regrets about how her life has unfolded
We deeply regret that our own denomination has a less than welcoming stance towards lgbtqi office-bearers and ministers. We are constantly working to combat this. We have hopes that this expungement, underlining again a change of heart with the wider society, may help us as we stumble towards greater equality in our own church. Again, if we can assist in the application process by supporting applicants and their families, please let us know.