In a long-awaited triumph for the UK LGBTQ community, the government announced Tuesday that anyone convicted of consensual same-sex activities under now repealed laws will soon be entitled to a pardon and file deletion.
This week’s announcement is followed by a less extensive one 2017 Measure limited to nine previous offenses targeting gay and bisexual men. The new amendment will expand the criteria to include anyone who has been officially warned or convicted of an abolished civil or military crime imposed as a result of consensual gay sex.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a statement that it is only right that where crime has been abolished “convictions for consensual acts between same-sex partners should also be disregarded”.
“I hope that expanding the pardon and disregard program will help redress past wrongs and reassure members of the LGBT community that the UK is one of the safest places in the world to call home,” she said .
According to the UK Government’s statement, those entitled can request that their convictions be cleared from their files on the condition that the sexual activity is currently legal and that everyone involved was 16 years of age or older at the time of the incident. The plan also provides for a posthumous pardon for those who died before the ratification of the change and within 12 months of it.
Britain began legalizing consensual sex between men in 1967. In 2001, the age of consent for gay and bisexual men was lowered from 21 to 16, which was the same as the age of consent for heterosexuals. By comparison, England’s sodomy laws were repealed long afterwards similar laws in France were abolished in 1791, but before all American sodomy laws were repealed by the US Supreme Court in 2003.
In 2013, Alan Turing, the code breaker who helped defeat the Nazis, was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II for a same-sex misdemeanor convicted in 1952 in Law, “the thousands of men convicted under now repealed laws , granted posthumous pardons.
According to Lord John Sharkey, a British politician who pushed for pardons, some 65,000 men were sentenced as part of these abolished measures. In 2016, Sharkey estimated 15,000 of these men were still alive, NBC News reported at the time.
LGBTQ advocates welcomed Tuesday’s announcement, but some called on the government to officially apologize to those affected by the historical beliefs.
“The posthumous pardon is just a symbolic gesture for those who have since died without washing their names,” said the British advocacy group LGBTQ Foundation in a Explanation, adding that the government “needs to recognize the pain, trauma, and lifelong guilt and stigma that these beliefs have caused to many LGBTQ + people who are simply trying to live their lives and be their real selves.”
The group also said the government should not force LGBTQ Britons to seek the overturning of their convictions, which “has the potential to create past trauma.” Instead, they argued that the government should automatically eliminate the crimes.
The UK isn’t the only country pardoning previous crimes involving consensual same-sex relationships. A similar victory swept Australia in 2008 when all states and territories passed laws that enabled the elimination of previous homosexual offenses. And in the US, California Governor Gavin Newsom launched a pardon process in 2020 for LGBTQ Californians convicted under outdated laws that criminalize same-sex activities.