Victorian government apology welcomed by gay rights activists

Gay rights activists have welcomed a move by the Victorian government to make a formal apology for historic laws that criminalised homosexuality.

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The Victorian government has made a formal apology for historical laws that criminalised homosexuality and carried jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Just two Victorians with historical convictions for homosexual acts have come forward to have their records expunged.

Co-convener of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Lauren Foy, told SBS an apology was a "welcomed move" because it would provide relief to those who were convicted, but she said it may be too late for some.

"The reality is removing your records is obviously legally going to provide people with a lot more freedom and room to move, but the damage has been done to their lives," she said.

"I think acknowledging and taking responsibility for actions that happened 20 to 30 years ago goes a long way in reconciling the hurt, shame and impact that had on a lot of people's lives at the time.

"I think it's fantastic that Victoria has set an example in that space."

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Anna Brown said the apology recognised the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused.

“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised," she said in a statement to SBS.

"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."

Equality Minister Martin Foley hopes the apology will encourage others to apply to get their records wiped clean.

"There's only two who've gone through the process at the moment, there's a number still in the system and that's not surprising," Mr Foley told reporters on Tuesday.

"A number of people in the many, many dozens have expressed some interest, have made contact, but have declined so far to proceed.

"We hope that today's resolution will be an important message to all of those people."

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has heard some horrific stories of people who were convicted for behaviour that should never have been a crime.

"Australia post-war was a very, very intolerant place towards gay people, particularly gay men, and today we're going to apologise for that," Mr Guy told reporters on Tuesday.

The rainbow flag is flying over Victoria's Parliament House where the apology is scheduled to be delivered at 2pm.

-with AAP

3 min read
Published 24 May 2016 at 11:34am
By Peter Theodosiou