Tasmania’s Liberal government has rejected calls from LGBTQI advocacy groups to pay compensation to victims of the state’s former anti-gay laws.
Attorney General Gyu Barnett recently introduced amendments to the state’s laws to allow victims of the former anti-gay laws to have their criminal records erased. However, missing was any provision to provide financial redressal.
Tasmania was the last state in Australia to repeal its laws against same-sex relationships when it decriminalised homosexuality in 1997. The laws against cross-dressing were struck down in 2000.
In 2016, the government enacted a law to allow gay men and trans women convicted under former laws to have their criminal records erased. An independent review of the law in 2020, recommended that the legislation also include associated offences like resisting arrest to be erased. The review also recommended ex-gratia payment to the victims.
New Bill Rejects Compensation. To Victims Of Anti-Gay Laws
The new amendments however fell short of the demands for compensation. Equality Tasmania and other groups, including, Tasmania’s Community Legal Services, the Tasmanian Council of Social Services and the Tasmanian Women’s Legal Service supported the demand for compensation.
Rodney Croome, Equality Tasmania spokesperson, welcomed the government’s changes to the law but said financial redress to the victims was equally important.
“When gay and transgender people were charged or convicted under our former laws they faced gaol, fines, court-ordered aversion practices, involuntary outing, loss of jobs, loss of family, loss of relationships and exile from the state,” Croome said in a statement.
“For decades after their conviction, having a criminal record made it much harder for those targeted under our old laws to find employment and housing. The Government was directly responsible for these profound injustices and now it must repair the damage, not only by erasing old records but by providing financial redress.”
Labor, Greens Urged To Introduce Amendments
The government said no other state provides compensation to victims of former anti-gay laws. Croome slammed the government’s suggestion that victims could apply for ex gratia payment to the Treasurer.
“Those who have already gone through the trauma of applying to erase their criminal record should not have to go through another application process for a discretionary Government ‘gift’ they may or may not receive,” said Croome, adding, “The fact Tasmania was the last state to repeal its former laws, and that those laws were the most draconian in the western world, leaves a legacy that is deeper and more recent than elsewhere and means Tasmania has a moral responsibility to blaze the path forward.”
Croome called on the opposition Labor and Greens to introduce amendments to the government’s bill in Parliament so that victims can finally get justice.