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Pardon for Condemned Gays in the UK
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of October 22, 2016) John Kevin Sharkey has introduced a legislative amendment called Turing Law on pardoning homo- and bisexual men (posthumously in many cases) in the British House of Lords. Those men were condemned for consensual sex with other men, which is no longer an offense or a crime.
[Update: The “Turing Law” is now in effect, see the additional text at the end of this article.]
“Homosexual acts” between consenting adults were exempt from punishment in 1967 in England and Wales, in 1980 in Scotland and in 1982 in Northern Ireland.
The Turing Law is supposed to amend a legislative initiative on the Penal Code that has been discussed in the British House of Lords since February of 2016. It will only apply to England and Wales because the British Parliament has no legislative function in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Here is a video on an interview with George Montague (93) who was condemned for homosexual acts in 1974. He is against the term pardon (or act of grace) and prefers an official apology because a pardon can only apply to the guilty but not to the innocent:
Alan Turing, who was condemned for homosexual acts in 1952 and therefore committed suicide in 1954, was pardoned posthumously in 2013. The Turing Law results from a petition in 2015 on a general pardon of all homo- and bisexual men who were wrongfully convicted in the past. One of the 640,000 signatories of this petition was Benedict Cumberbatch who had played the role of Turing in the biopic The Imitation Game.
Currently, the men concerned have to officially ask the Home Office to have their condemnation erased from their criminal record. The Turing Law plans an automatic erasure for anyone concerned (whether living or dead) provided the Home Office determines upon request that a pardon can be issued for each individual case.
The British government has refused a suggestion by John Nicolson who had asked for a general and automatic pardon – without an official request – for all men concerned.
Lord Sharkey estimates that a total of about 65,000 gays and bisexuals were wrongfully convicted, of whom about 15,000 are still alive today.
Much like George Montague (see video above), many other men concerned believe that a pardon is not the right thing to do because the facts of the cases are no longer considered offenses or crimes. This is why they would much prefer an official apology.
Update of February 1st, 2017. The Turing Law came into effect yesterday (January 31st, 2017 (source: BBC.com, January 31st, 2017). The new law retroactively pardons gay and bisexual men for any offenses and crimes that are no longer punishable today. Obviously, this does not apply to offenses that are still punishable now, such as sexual acts with minors, rape, sexual harrassment etc.
The pardon under this law also applies posthumously to about 49,000 already deceased men. Another approx. 15,000 men are still alive and have to file a request in order to have their criminal records cleared of these wrongful condemnations, so the procedure is not automatic.
LGBT activist Peter Tatchell criticizes some weaknesses of the new law. In his opinion, it does not define the procedure of the posthumous pardon clearly enough. For instance, it is not clear whether the family of a deceased person may exclusively file the request in this person's name, or whether friends and close confidants may do so, too.
According to Tatchell, one of the biggest problems is the fact that many men were reported or denounced by their own families at that time.
Frank-S / MensGo
Main source: BBC, October 20, 2016.