The Western Australian government will formally apologise to people who were convicted under historical anti-gay laws.

Premier Mark McGowan will stand up in parliament to issue the apology tomorrow, Perth Now has reported.

The government believes 200 to 300 people in Western Australia were convicted under the laws, which were repealed in 1990.

“This is simply about righting the wrongs of the past. These acts should never have been considered a criminal offence,” McGowan said.

“Many have experienced severe psychological trauma as a result of the old laws.

“We can’t change the past, but I hope that the apology will offer some comfort. It’s an important step for WA and sends the message that we are a tolerant state that is welcoming and proud of everyone in our community.”

Queensland and Tasmania similarly apologised earlier this year to those affected by historical gay sex convictions.

People with historical gay sex convictions will also be able to apply to have their records wiped, with applications subject to a test to confirm their acts would not be considered a crime today.

Families of people who have since died will be able to apply for expungement of their relatives’ criminal records on their behalf.

Attorney-General John Quigley said the reforms were intended to help right historical injustices against the LGBTI community.

“Expunging an offence goes further than simply making it spent. It has the practical effect of requiring that an expunged conviction be treated as though it had never occurred,” he said.

Jonathan Mann, chair of Rainbow Rights WA, welcomed the proposed reforms.

“It was state-sanctioned homophobia … you had a criminal record just because of who you loved and that’s atrocious,” he said.

Opposition spokesperson Michael Mischin stopped short of expressing support for the legislation, saying that it will be “considered on its merits”.

UPDATE 01/11: In a speech in parliament today, McGowan gave his speech apologising for the convictions, Buzzfeed has reported.

“Before homosexuality was decriminalised, men could be sentenced to years in prison, hard labour and whipping, for having consensual sex with another man,” he said.

“These acts should never have been considered an offence, and the men impacted should never have had a criminal record against their names. Hundreds of Western Australians have unfairly borne the stigma of having a criminal record for acts that are no longer considered a crime.

“On behalf of the government of Western Australia, I am sorry for the unjust laws passed here, and the real and deep pain that they caused.

“Such was the shame these laws caused that even decades later many remain silent.

“I feel a deep sense of sadness that many victims of these unjust laws are not alive today to hear this apology. I hope their families and friends can take some solace from this moment.

“These laws were state sanctioned discrimination. The uncomfortable truth is that they were also the foundation upon which much current homophobia is built. What my government and I can do today is wipe some slates clean.”

Opposition leader Mike Nahan concurred with McGowan’s speech.

“”The fact that they have a criminal record is not just wrong, it resulted in dreadful disruption to those people who had criminal convictions recorded against them, ranging from embarrassment to serious psychological and emotional distress as well as discrimination and reduced opportunities in life,” he said.

This article was previous published as ‘Western Australia to apologise for historical gay sex convictions’.

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