TASMANIAN LGBTI community representatives have praised Premier Will Hodgman for apologising to those convicted under the state’s former laws against homosexuality and crossdressing.

The Premier offered the apology this afternoon, coinciding with debate on a bill to allow historical convictions to be overturned, and ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania on May 1.

Hodgman acknowledged the pain the historic convictions have had on those affected.

“We acknowledge that Tasmanians suffered as a result of these laws which were repealed 20 years ago,” he said.

“We apologise to those directly affected in this way, to their family and loved ones.”

Tasmanian Labor and Tasmanian Greens also offered their apologies.

In 1995, Hodgman was the first leader in Australia to commit to such an apology, and has become the first Liberal leader in Australia to offer one.

Tasmania was the last Australian state to carry out the death penalty for sodomy in 1867.

In the subsequent hundred years Tasmania had the highest rate of imprisonment for private consenting male sex anywhere in the world.

Lee Carnie, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said the apology was an important acknowledgement of the injustice of Tasmania’s old laws and that the proposed expungement scheme would have a practical impact on the lives of many men.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised. This apology will help repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and moving forward sends a clear message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that they are valued members of the community,” said Ms Carnie.

“I applaud Will Hodgman and his government for this historic legislation and apology,” said Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome.

“The message to those LGBTI Tasmanians who were convicted for being themselves is that the island society that once rejected them now embraces them.

“This apology is historic because Tasmania was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality, almost exactly 20 years ago on May 1 1997, and our anti-gay laws attracted the most severe maximum punishment in the western world, 21 years in jail.”

Croome said he hopes Hodgman’s apology and the anniversary of decriminalisation sends a message to Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote so marriage equality can pass.

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