Today’s Apology For Criminalised Homosexuality Is Important, But NSW Still Has A Long Way To Go

Today’s Apology For Criminalised Homosexuality Is Important, But NSW Still Has A Long Way To Go
Image: Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh. Image: Supplied

Today’s apology for criminalised homosexuality is important, but NSW still has a long way to go

– by Equality Australia Legal Director, Ghassan Kassisieh


Last year I assisted a man to clear his record of a historical conviction that he carried for over 60 years.

His crime, the court records say, was to ask an undercover male police officer that entrapped him back to his apartment for sex. No sex occurred, but he was convicted and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for ‘attempting to procure an act of indecency by a male person’.

Few people would know what it is like to be hated and hunted just for being who they are, under threat of imprisonment by their government and condemned by their community.

And yet that is what countless gay men experienced within recent living memory in NSW.

It is a sad and dark chapter in our state’s history, and it is only right and welcome that Premier Chris Minns will formally apologise today to those convicted under old laws that criminalised homosexual acts between men.

Removed from our criminal laws in 1984, nothing can ever make up for the shame inflicted on these men by this hideous criminal stain. The jobs they couldn’t apply for. The loneliness of fearing that simple acts of intimacy could end a career, or worse. And for some, the anguish of having to hide a criminal record from family and friends, even for a lifetime.

Today’s historic and gracious apology will go some way to addressing this harm and hurt.

But it also calls upon the NSW Parliament to finish the unfinished business of 1984 by changing the laws that continue to discriminate against and disadvantage LGBTIQ+ people in our great state.

This week a NSW parliamentary inquiry recommended that an LGBTIQA+ Equality Bill proceed for parliamentary consideration.

This bill would make history in closing remaining gaps and modernising NSW laws that have for too long stigmatised, excluded and failed to protect LGBTIQ+ people equally.

Many people are surprised to know that NSW laws still allow LGBTQ+ teachers and students to be fired or expelled from private schools. Trans people are still denied ID that matches their identity, unless they have invasive surgery that many can’t access or may not want. And not all of our families are recognised.

The Equality Bill will finally fix this and bring NSW closer into line with laws in other states and territories.

Today’s apology is a reminder of what positive change is and has been made possible in the 40 years since our love was decriminalised.

Only ten years on from 1984, our community would build organisations working together for our safety, health and happiness, particularly as those who were supposed to protect us let us down — as a Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes would much later find.

We would learn to celebrate our resilience and pride through the grief and fear marking those times, as we mourned a generation lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Within twenty years, our identities and relationships would begin to be recognised and the age of consent would be equalised.

Within thirty years, many of our kids would finally be recognised as part of our families and, by 2014, a scheme would be introduced to wipe old criminal records that should never have existed.

Now, in 2024, so much has changed. Thanks to the millions who stood with us and joined us on the journey of acceptance and understanding over four decades, we can marry those we choose to love.

And earlier this year — with welcome bipartisanship — our NSW Parliament outlawed practices that attempt to change or suppress who we are. Forty years ago, they criminalised us, now those who seek to harm us can live under that shadow.

These changes have been possible thanks to the millions of people who have marched with us, voted for us and stood up for us over the years.

But they are all inspired by the incredible sacrifice and activism of those elders who marched out of the bars, into the streets, onto our screens and deep into our hearts – with a vision that NSW could one day be a home that welcomes all of us.

As the NSW Premier delivers this apology, we should honour their legacy with a gift for the next generation.

Just as unjust criminal laws created a climate of fear and prejudice 40 years ago, existing discrimination in our laws continue to cast a shadow over our lives.

NSW has among the worst laws in the country for LGBTIQ+ people.

It’s time the NSW Government and all NSW Parliamentarians commit to passing the LGBTIQA+ Equality Bill to deliver a fair and equal future for the generations to come.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *