Denis NapthinePEOPLE with historical convictions for homosexual sex in Victoria will be able to apply to have their convictions expunged, under new legislation announced on Sunday by Victorian Premier Denis Napthine.

The Premier made the announcement in front of Melbourne’s LGBTI community at Midsumma Carnival, saying the proposed legislation would apply to homosexual acts no longer considered an offence under the present law.

Until the laws were repealed in 1981, gay men in Victoria were convicted and even imprisoned under a range of offences including “buggery” and “loitering for homosexual purposes”.

“This is only fair, this is reasonable, this is long overdue and we’re very pleased to be introducing it,” Napthine told the crowd yesterday.

He expanded on the announcement in a statement, saying consensual homosexual acts between adults “should never have been a crime”.

“We also recognise the social and psychological impacts that have been experienced by those who have historical convictions for acts which would no longer be a crime under today’s law,” he said.

“These convictions have been allowed to stand for far too long which is why we will legislate to rectify this situation.”

RELATED:  Calls for NSW, Tasmania to follow Victoria and expunge gay sex convictions

Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown was instrumental in pushing for the legislation and he praised the work of LGBTI community organisations who have worked on this issue.

“I have been quietly working within government for the past two years to gather the support from all my government colleagues,” Newton-Brown told the Star Observer. 

“The result is an announcement that is supported and welcomed by all members of government and leaders within the GLBTI community.”

LGBTI community and advocacy organisations welcomed the announcement, saying many in the community still felt the burden of these historical convictions.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Anna Brown said men with convictions for homosexual sex face stigma and shame as well as practical difficulties as a result.

“It’s extremely pleasing to see the Victorian Government showing leadership on this issue. Acknowledging these laws were wrong and legislating to abolish the left-over convictions will start to heal the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused,” Brown said.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised.”

In conjunction with a number of LGBTI community organisations, Brown led the development of a research paper on historical convictions for consensual homosexual acts, released to coincide with the announcement on Sunday.

The report outlines important considerations for legislators around the issue, including the need to offer psychological support for those affected by historical convictions. The report also calls for a formal apology from the Victorian Government and representatives of Victoria Police.

Vice-President of Liberty Victoria and LGBTI rights pioneer Jamie Gardiner was President of the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition and instrumental in achieving the legal reforms decriminalising homosexuality implemented in 1981

“These convictions have cruelly affected the lives of gay men prosecuted in the 1970s and before, for conduct which should never have been criminal, and has been legal for over three decades,” Gardiner said.

“They unfairly constrain employment options and the volunteer work they undertake. We must repudiate those discriminatory laws and not let them continue to poison the lives of many hundreds of gay and bisexual men.”

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said the reforms were expected to come into effect in 2015. He also stated each application for a conviction to be expunged would be assessed against whether the act is still an offence under Victorian law.

“If it is determined that the conviction related to an act that would no longer be an offence then the conviction will henceforth be treated for all legal purposes as never having occurred,” Clark said.

Victorian shadow cabinet member and Adviser to the Leader of the Opposition on LGBTI Equality Martin Foley told the Star Observer that Victorian Labor welcomed the announcement, and said it had been on the opposition’s agenda.

“[Premier Napthine] could take the next logical step and not just right historical wrongs, he could redress wrongs that his government has been responsible for, most particularly the rollback of human rights and equal opportunity legislation he and his government voted for in 2011, which allows faith-based organisations to sack people for their LGBTI identities,” Foley said.

RELATED:  Calls for NSW, Tasmania to follow Victoria and expunge gay sex convictions

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