The Victorian Government has become the first in the world to apologise to the men who were convicted of historic gay sex offences before homosexuality was decriminalised.

Premier Daniel Andrews delivered the heartfelt apology in parliament and highlighted the ways in which the historic laws affect LGBTI Victorians now.

“These laws represented nothing less than official, state-sanctioned homophobia,” he said.

“And we wonder why gay and lesbian and bi and trans teenagers are still the target of red, hot hatred.

“We wonder why hundreds of thousands of Australians are still formally excluded from something as basic and decent as a formal celebration of love.”

The state parliament passed a historic gay sex convictions expungement bill in 2014, allowing the men affected to apply to have any historic convictions of consensual homosexual sex removed from their records as if they never existed in the first place.

Gay rights activist Noel Tovey was convicted for “the abominable crime of buggery” on two counts 64 years ago, and recently had his application to expunge it approved.

“My approval for expungement is great, but a formal apology means another step towards recognising homosexual men as actual people,” he told the Star Observer.

When Tom was 14-years-old he was sexually abused by a male employer in his forties, and despite his employer pleading guilty, Tom himself was also charged with two counts of “gross indecency” and one count of “buggery”.

He said he accepts the formal apology with gratitude and great joy.

“After almost forty years I am glad to be able to attempt to finally put to rest this event in my life,” he said.

“This event has caused me untold anguish, anxiety, stress, and trauma throughout my life and the formal state apology goes a long way to hopefully easing that in my future.”

Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, Anna Brown, has provided legal assistance to many of the men who were previously convicted.

She believes the apology helps to recognise the harm these laws caused.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised,” she said.

“This apology is a powerful symbolic act that helps to repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and affirm the value of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people’s sexuality.

“It’s extremely pleasing to see the Victorian Government showing leadership on this issue.”

Co-convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Sean Mulcahy, said the apology is another step in the long journey towards equality for LGBTI Victorians.

“For years many gay and bisexual men have had to live with a conviction for something that should never have been a crime,” he said.

“This apology is a sign that those times when we saw homosexuality as a crime are so far past us now and is a symbol of how far we have come.”

Premier Andrews ended the government’s apology by telling sex and gender diverse Victorians to celebrate their pride.

“If you are a member of the LGBTI community, and there’s someone in your life that you love – a partner or a friend – then do me a favour,” he said.

“Next time you’re on a tram in Melbourne, hold their hand.

“Do it with pride and defiance, because you have that freedom.

“For the laws we passed, and the lives we ruined, and the standards we set – we are so sorry. Humbly, deeply, sorry.”

Read Premier Daniel Andrew’s full apology in parliament here.

 

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