Thousands of gay and bisexual men will be pardoned by U.K.’s new ‘Alan Turing Law’
In a significant victory for human rights campaigners, the U.K. government announced that thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted under old sexual offense laws will receive posthumous pardons. The pardons will apply to those in England and Wales who have since passed away but were prosecuted for same-sex relations before homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967.
The announcement will mean the possibility of a pardon for the 15,000 still-living men who were convicted under indecency laws. In total, almost 50,000 men were affected.
“Pardoning gay men convicted under homophobic laws makes it seem as though they’re being forgiven for things they did wrong,” writer and activist Owen Jones told VICE News. “Instead, they should be regarded as martyrs who were victimised by terrible persecution. The damage done to them cannot be undone, but it can be acknowledged with full and total contrition.”
The move follows the campaign to pardon Alan Turing, the famous World War II codebreaker, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952. He was later chemically castrated and left unable to work for the security services because of his criminal record. He died two years later — a death many believe to be the result of suicide. The terrible treatment that Turing received prompted campaigners to lobby the British government, and a Royal pardon was given in 2013. Since then, relatives of Turing, along with gay rights activists and members of Parliament, have been working to secure the same apology for others.
Some feel that the proposal doesn’t go far enough. John Nicholson MP has proposed a Private Member’s Bill that would create a blanket pardon without the need for the disregard process (whereby the offence is reviewed before a pardon can be granted). Mr Nicholson told VICE News: “My bill will offer [gay men] a pardon. And the pardon will be backdated to cover all those convicted since 1919. Society has moved on. We recognize that homophobic laws brought misery to those targeted by them. It’s now time for us to give these men the peace of mind they deserve.”
Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, policy and research for Stonewall, said: “We welcome the government announcement to issue a posthumous pardon to all gay and bi men unjustly prosecuted for being who they are, but we don’t think it goes far enough. John Nicholson’s proposed bill closes a loophole which means some gay and bi men who are still alive and living with those convictions still can’t have them deleted, despite them being unjust and not legal today. We urge the government to look at bringing this into their proposal.”