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Gay men convicted under historic anti-gay laws to be pardoned, government announces

By Will Stroude

Yesterday (October 19), the British government announced that up to 75,000 men who were convicted of now-abolished anti-gay sexual offences will receive pardons.

The move comes three years after the government committed to pardoning all men convicted of consensual sex with other men in 2013, after World War Two hero Alan Turing received a posthumous pardon in 2013.

While men who have since passed away will be automatically pardoned, those who are living must still apply through the Home Office to have their name cleared through a “disregard process”, before receiving their pardon, the BBC reports.

Justice Minister Sam Gimyah described the move as “hugely important”, while the announcement has been welcomed by MPs from all parties, including out lesbian Labour MP, Angela Eagle, who described the announcement as “great news,” but added that she will be supporting a bill to have convictions completely overturned.

Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey said the decision was “a momentous day for thousands of families up and down the UK.”

While the announcement has been welcomed by some, many feel that a pardon doesn’t go far enough.

Veteran LGBT rights campaigner George Montague, who was convicted of homosexual acts in 1974, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight last night to explain why he couldn’t accept a pardon.

“To accept a pardon means you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything. I was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the 93-year-old Attitude Pride Award winner said.

“I think it was wrong to give Alan Turing – one of the heroes of my life – a pardon. What was he guilty of? He was guilty of the same as what they called me guilty of – being born only able to fall in love with another man.

“If I get an apology, I will not need a pardon.”

Montague added that there “never should have been an offence of gross indecency”, saying: “It didn’t apply to heterosexuals. Heterosexuals could do what they liked, in the doorways, in passageways, the back of their car.

“It only applied to gay men. That’s not right, surely?”

The government’s announcement comes almost two years after Turing’s family, joined by former Attitude editor Matthew Todd, delivered a petition calling to Downing Street calling for posthumous pardons of gay men, signed by more than half a million people.

The campaign was supported by the likes of Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Turing in 2014’s Oscar-winning biopic The Imitation Game.

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