TASMANIA’S anti-discrimination commissioner last week officially recommended the state expunge historical convictions of men who have been convicted of consensual gay sex before it was decriminalised in 1997.

The news came just days after the state parliament’s lower house approved a bill that appears to allow religious schools to refuse LGBTI students on grounds of their beliefs.

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Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks’ recommendation was published in a report that followed a public submission and a discussion paper on the treatment of convictions for consensual sexual activity between adult males.

In her report, Banks recommended establishing a three-person panel made up of herself, the registrar of the Working with Vulnerable People Registration Scheme and the University of Tasmania’s dean of law to review expungement applications. The panel would also work with Tasmania Police.

Banks also recommended that the government issues a formal apology to people who have been affected by a historical criminal record and by the past actions of authorities.

She told ABC Radio last week that expunging the convictions would remove stigma for people who have a conviction for something that should never have been a crime, and continue to face discrimination in employment, volunteering and other aspects of their lives as a result.

Tasmania became the last Australian state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997. NSW and Victoria already have similar schemes to review and expunge criminal records of a similar nature.

Earlier this year, the ACT announced plans allow the expungement of historical gay sex convictions prior to the territory’s decriminalisation of consensual gay sex in 1976.

Meanwhile, South Australia’s Spent Convictions (Decriminalised Offences) Amendment Act 2013 allows those with historical convictions to apply to have them not appear on their record after a number of crime-free years. However, unlike NSW and Victoria’s schemes, this does not mean the convictions would be properly “expunged”, that is as if the offence never took place.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome urged his state government to work fast on the expungement scheme, to make sure they’re not “last again” in a significant LGBTI law reform.

However, a few days before Banks published her recommendations, Tasmanian Parliament’s House of Assembly passed an exemption to the Anti-Discrimination Act that raised concerns it would allow religious schools in the state to refuse LGBTI students on grounds of their beliefs.

The government — which passed the amendment on April 30 — has denied it would be discriminatory. But Croome disagreed.

“This is a bigots’ charter because it will give religious school principals free rein to discriminate against gay and transgender students and the children of same-sex couples under the guise of their school’s “religious belief,” he said.

“Life is already hard enough for young gay people and the children of same-sex couples in religious schools without this kind of ideological move fostering prejudice and discrimination against them.

“I believe the current law is working well to foster inclusive schools and my challenge to the government is to explain exactly why this change is needed.”

“Consistency with other states is an argument against this change, not for it, because the experience in other states is that children are being unfairly targeted if their parents are not in a married heterosexual relationship.”

He added that it would likely violate section 46 of the Tasmanian Constitution, which protects every Tasmanian citizen from discrimination on the grounds of religion.

The bill is expected to be debated again in the state’s upper house at the end of this month.

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