THE Victorian Government will introduce long-awaited legislation into state parliament today to allow men with historical gay sex convictions to have them expunged.

Under the proposed law, Victorians with convictions received prior to 1981 when consensual homosexual sex was a crime will be able to apply to have those convictions expunged, meaning they will be treated as if the conviction had never occurred.

“It is now accepted that consensual sexual acts between two adult men should never have been a crime, and we are legislating for the law to recognise this,” Premier Denis Napthine said.

People with historical gay sex convictions face stigma as well as discrimination in the areas of employment and travel.

Victorians with these convictions will be able to confidentially apply to the Secretary of the Department of Justice, who will assess the application to determine whether the convictions are for offences that are no longer crimes today.

Following a successful application, the Secretary will notify the courts, police and office of public prosecutions to have the conviction expunged.

“No person should be subjected to unjust discrimination on account of their sexuality land this reform will help put an end to the harm, these convictions can cause,” Attorney-General Robert Clark said.

Clark attracted national criticism for his support of the anti-gay World Congress of Families conference in Melbourne last month — he was set to give a “Welcome to Victoria” speech but pulled out at the last minute.

Albert Park state Labor MP and spokesperson for LGBTI equality Martin Foley told the Star Observer the opposition welcomes the bill, but expressed reservations about the government’s legislative process.

“Labor welcomes the final move by the Napthine Government to follow Labor’s policy position on the expungement of gay sex convictions from pre-1981,” he said.

“We are disappointed the government has declined our repeated overtures to be briefed on the long-promised bill. We note the extremely tight legislative timetable to get this bill through under the rules of the parliament set by the Napthine Government.”

The announcement has been welcomed by advocates, with the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby calling it a “much-needed reform”.

“This will mean that those people convicted will no longer have a black mark on their record when seeking a police check for a job or volunteer position,” said co-convener Corey Irlam, who hoped the bill would deliver on the recommendations of community advocates including the VGLRL.

“While we welcome the Bill’s imminent introduction, we’ll need to wait to see the bill tabled in Parliament before we can comment on its contents.”

The announcement was also welcomed by Prahran state Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown, who was a key figure in getting the bill prepared and whose electorate has the highest proportion of gay men in Victoria.

“I commend Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre and Corey Irlam from the (VGLRL) for the massive amount of work that they have done to assist me in getting this bill prepared,” he said.

“The successful passage of this bill will be the highlight of my term as member for Prahran.”

Clark is expected to give the bill a second reading on Tuesday afternoon, and it is expected to be debated by parliament after this week.

The government said the expungement scheme is intended to commence in 2015.

© Star Observer 2018 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.