GAY rights advocates have welcomed the Victorian Parliament’s formal acknowledgement that sex between consenting men should never have been a crime.

Last night, legislation to allow historical gay sex convictions to be expunged was passed with bipartisan support. It became the first state in Australia to do so.

The legislation means 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 or existed.

Crimes that may be expunged include “the abominable crime of buggery”, “loitering for homosexual purposes” and other offences where the conduct would otherwise be lawful under today’s laws.

Amendments to the state’s Equal Opportunity Act also now makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of an expunged gay sex conviction, and an additional purpose in the bill to recognise that the convictions in question should never have been considered criminal matters.

Posthumous expungement will also be be allowed, adopting a next-of-kin definition consistent with the Coroner’s Act that would help prevent disputes.

Once applications are approved by the state Secretary of the Department of Justice, their convictions will no longer appear on police checks and criminal records.

Human Rights Law Centre’s (HRLC) advocacy and strategic litigation director Anna Brown welcomed the passage of the legislation.

“Victoria has made history by becoming the first parliament to formally acknowledge that consenting sex between men should never have been a crime,” she said.

“The new scheme will ensure that countless numbers of gay men will no longer have a black mark on their record when seeking a police check for a job or volunteer position.”

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) co-convenor Corey Irlam commended the Parliament for working together to improve the bill and achieve the best possible outcome for the LGBTI community.

“[The] collaboration between the government, opposition and cross bench was an example of Parliament working at its best for its constituents,” he said.

“We congratulate and thank the Parliament for the sensible approach they have taken to pass this legislation before the election.

The Human Rights Law Centre, in partnership with the VGLRL, Liberty Victoria, Victorian AIDS Council and Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, developed a discussion paper to help the government explore the issue and released the final version of the report earlier this year. Since then, the HRLC and VGLRL continued to engage with government about the bill.

The bill passed both the upper house and lower house of Victorian Parliament last night.

It is anticipated the scheme will allow people to apply for expungement in mid-2015.

For full details on the expungement bill, click here.

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