By Rachel Savage
LONDON, Jan. 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – British gay and bisexual men convicted of consensual same-sex relationships under now abolished laws may have their convictions struck from the public record, the government said on Tuesday.
The announcement extends a program launched ten years ago which granted pardons to homosexual men convicted of “sodomy”, “gross indecency” and “sodomy”. It will now cover all other convictions related to consensual homosexual sexual activity. Interior Minister Priti Patel said the move was aimed at “righting the wrongs of the past”.
“It is only fair that when the offenses have been abolished, convictions for same-sex consensual activity are also ignored,” Patel added in a statement. Britain recently took a series of steps to tackle past discrimination against LGBTQ + people, including last year allowing homosexual members of the armed forces to be dismissed request the return of the medals.
Lawmakers and LGBTQ + activists have said the extension of the pardons policy could help thousands of gay and bisexual men who have struggled to find jobs in their working lives because of such convictions.
“It is very important that the state recognizes that as a country we have done something totally wrong and inappropriate,” said Michael Cashman, member of the upper house of the British parliament.
“It’s been six long years of work,” Cashman, founder of LGBTQ + rights organization Stonewall, who worked on politics with fellow House of Lords member Alistair Cooke told the Thomson Foundation. Reuters by phone.
The change will mean gay men who are subject to a solicitation ban will also be able to have their convictions overturned, said Paul Johnson, an academic who has worked with Cashman and Cooke.
The law was used until the 1980s to condemn “men who sometimes did little more than chat with another man on the street,” said Johnson, executive dean of social science at Leeds University. “The wider involvement [of the expanded pardons policy] it’s that he once and for all draws a limit on about 500 years of persecution, ”he said over the phone.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http: // news .trust.org) Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.)