Britain extends pardons to all men convicted under scrapped gay sex laws

by Rachel Savage | @rachelmsavage | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 4 January 2022 15:00 GMT

British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wearing a face mask takes part in the Reclaim Pride march in London, Britain July 24, 2021. REUTERS/Beresford Hodge

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Gay and bisexual men convicted for consensual same-sex activity in Britain will be able to apply to have their convictions expunged

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Jan 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gay and bisexual British men convicted over any consensual same-sex relations under now-abolished laws will be able to have their convictions removed from the public record, the government said on Tuesday.

The announcement extends a programme launched a decade ago that granted pardons to gay men convicted of "buggery", "gross indecency" and "sodomy". It will now cover all other convictions related to consensual same-sex sexual activity.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the move was aimed at "righting the wrongs of the past".

"It is only right that where offences have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded too," Patel added in a statement.

Britain has taken a series of steps recently to address past discrimination against LGBT+ people, including last year allowing dismissed gay armed forces members to apply to have medals returned.

LGBT+ lawmakers and campaigners said extending the pardons policy could help thousands of gay and bi men who have struggled to find jobs during their working lives due to having such convictions.

"It's very important that the state recognises that as a country we did something that was wholly wrong and inappropriate," said Michael Cashman, a member of Britain's upper house of parliament.

"It's been a long six years of work," Cashman, a founder of LGBT+ rights organisation Stonewall who worked on the policy with fellow House of Lords member Alistair Lexden, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The change will mean that gay men who were targeted by a ban on soliciting can also have convictions cleared, said Paul Johnson, an academic who worked with Cashman and Lexden.

The law was used as late as the 1980s to convict "men who sometimes did little more than chat up another man in the street", said Johnson, executive dean of social sciences at the University of Leeds.

"The broader implication (of the expanded pardons policy) is that it draws a line once and for all under about 500 years of persecution," he said by phone.

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(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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