Victorian Apology to Gay Community
24 May 2016 at 4:32 pm
The Victorian Parliament has formally apologised to the gay community for old laws that criminalised homosexual behaviour, in a move that is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.
Premier Daniel Andrews told Parliament that the state government had to be held to account for “designing a culture of darkness and shame”.
“And those who faced its sanction, and lived in fear, are to be formally recognised for their relentless pursuit of freedom and love,” Andrews said.
“It all started here. It will end here, too. To our knowledge, no jurisdiction in the world has ever offered a full and formal apology for laws like these.
“On behalf of the Parliament, the government and the people of Victoria. For the laws we passed and the lives we ruined and the standards we set, we are humbly, deeply, sorry.
“There was a time in our history when we turned thousands of ordinary young men into criminals and it was profoundly and unimaginably wrong.”
He said that in 1961 alone, 40 Victorian men were charged with criminal homosexual behaviour.
“While the laws were terminated in the 1980s, they still remain next to the names of so many men – most of them dead – a criminal conviction engraved upon their place in history,” he said.
“I can inform the house that six men have now successfully applied to expunge these convictions from their record. Many more have commenced the process.
“This won’t erase the injustice, but it is an accurate statement of what I believe today:That these convictions should never have happened. That the charges will be deleted, as if they never existed.”
— David Lewis (@dlewis89) May 24, 2016
The premier also addressed his apology to the LGBTI community generally saying: “As part of this [apology] process, I learnt that two women were convicted for offensive behaviour in the 1970s for holding hands – on a tram. So let me finish by saying this: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.
“Next time you’re on a tram in Melbourne, hold their hand. Do it with pride and defiance. Because you have that freedom.”
The leader of the opposition Matthew Guy also offered his formal apologies for the state’s past policies, and practices, which he said “led to disgraceful treatment of those in our gay community”.
“This apology is long overdue, it’s about time and it is right,” he told Parliament.
“While an apology is words of remorse, regret and sorrow … let today’s apology also be one of positivity and inclusion, that we go forth from today as a parliament, having decriminalised homosexuality in 1980, expunged homosexual related convictions in 2014 and apologised to our gay communities today, to be a part of a Victoria where sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity and appearance does not matter.”
— Cal Hawk (@TheCalHawk) May 24, 2016