Guest column: Government apology doesn't mean equality for gay men

The government's proposed bill to pardon thousands of gay men that were sentenced for crimes that no longer exist has received royal assent.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:04 am
More needs to be done on gay equality
More needs to be done on gay equality

This means that those currently holding criminal records for consensual, same-sex relationships can request for their record to be wiped clean.

Before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, around 49,000 innocent men were prosecuted and their lives were subject to shame and fear.

Why are we only just addressing this issue?

A 50-year wait to be pardoned is neither acceptable or just.

The resentment to recognise LGBT issues is helping to keep homophobia alive.

The Tories have done a tremendous job when it comes to sweeping homophobia under the carpet.

In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act lowered the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18.

In 2001 it was lowered to 16 but at the time, our now Prime Minister Theresa May voted against this decision.

However, this should not undermine the progress that has been made within the movement of LGBT rights.

We should celebrate how far we have come while acknowledging how far we have to go.

In 2014, we had the legalisation of same-sex marriages, a significant moment on the LGBT timeline.

However, legalising gay marriage doesn’t wipe the historical slate of suppression - homophobia is still prevalent today.

One in five LGBT people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident in the last three years, yet, according to research by Stonewall, just one in four reported them to the police.

It was only last year that we saw the worst mass shooting in American history when 49 people were shot dead in a gay night club.

Many media organisations said it was an ‘act of terrorism’ and not a ‘hate crime’.

An apology implies wrong-doing.

It suggests that gay men are grateful to the Government that once criminalised them.

It fails to hold anybody to account for the injustice that has occurred.

It is also important that we remember those who were victimised by their own country and are no longer here to tell their story.

Alan Turing was a mathematician and codebreaker at Bletchley during WWII.

Churchill described him as the ‘biggest contribution to the victory against the Nazis’.

He was sentenced for ‘gross indecency’, chemically castrated and committed suicide at the age of 41 because of his sexuality.

We shouldn’t need exemplary war heroes to validate LGBT lives.

But the very same Government that recognised and praised his war efforts drove him to take his own life.

Pardoning homosexuality in itself is simply not enough, a pardon will never undo the damage that has been caused.