Germany's justice minister said Wednesday he will draw up legislation to annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was applied zealously in post-World War II West Germany.
Heiko Maas' announcement that he will seek to overturn the convictions and create a "right to compensation" came after an expert study commissioned by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency found that there is no legal barrier to rehabilitating the men.
"We will never be able to eliminate completely these outrages by the state, but we want to rehabilitate the victims," Maas said in a statement. "The homosexual men who were convicted should no longer have to live with the taint of conviction."
Some 50,000 men were convicted between 1949 and 1969 under the so-called Paragraph 175 outlawing sexual relations between men, which was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by West Germany.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn't taken off the books entirely until 1994. In 2000, Parliament approved a resolution regretting the fact that Paragraph 175 was retained after the war. Two years later, it annulled the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule, but not post-war convictions.
The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany said the study for the anti-discrimination agency "makes clear that the government can no longer hide behind spurious arguments that annulling the convictions would not be legally possible."
Maas said that the study will be taken into account in drawing up legislation, which would need parliamentary approval.
"We can only appeal to all political voices who have struggled with this issue so far not to use abuse it now for political trench warfare," he said.