Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has today apologised for the Territory’s former laws that criminalised consensual gay sex.
The laws were in place until 1984, with those convicted still bearing a criminal record.
“Laws criminalising homosexuality were wrong.
“Laws criminalising love and attraction were wrong, and historical convictions stemming from these laws were—are—wrong.”
LGBTI activists have welcomed the apology.
“It’s never too late to put things right,” said Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre.
“There was a time when governments around Australia turned thousands of innocent men and women into criminals all because of who they love.
“It was profoundly cruel and wrong. Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised.
“This is an important step towards righting the wrongs of the past.”
The Northern Territory is also set to pass a bill to allow those with historical gay sex convictions to have their records cleared.
“Today we pass laws so these convictions may be struck from personal records,” said Gunner.
All states and territories have introduced similar bills, with Tasmanians recently becoming able to apply for their historical convictions to be expunged.
The Chief Minister’s apology has been welcomed by LGBTQI advocates.
“If this bill passes, it would mean closure,” said gay rights campaigner Dino Hodge.
“It would mean full equality when it comes to laws which criminalised us for who we were.
“After 30 years, it would mean that we would have finally achieved what we had set out to do.”
Jane Black from advocacy group Rainbow Territory said the apology and expungement scheme are important parts of removing the impact and legacy of targeted discrimination and police harassment against LGBTQI Territorians.
“This apology acknowledges the deep wrongs that occurred against gay men in particular, and also sets expectations for wider LGBTQI law reform into the future,” she said.
She called for further legal reform to protect LGBTQI people in the Territory, including by addressing the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act.
“Territorians can no longer get a criminal record for engaging in homosexual acts, but today Territorians can get fired for being gay if they work in a religious school,” Black said.
She urged the Territory government to undertake a comprehensive review of legislation.