Two Australian states are expected to expunge the criminal records of men who were convicted of homosexuality before it was legalised.
The state of Victoria was the first to announce the news on Sunday when Premier Denis Napthine launched the 26th Midsumma Festival, an annual celebration of queer culture in Melbourne .
“This is only fair, this is reasonable, this is long overdue and we are very pleased to be introducing it,” Napthine told the crowd. He added that, “We are proud of our diversity in this great state and I as Premier can say I am proud to be here.”
The legislation is expected to be introduced this year, and will allow the convicted men to apply to have their records cleared.
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Victoria in 1981. Men convicted of having consensual sex with other men, known as “buggery” or “gross indecency”, were burdened with lifelong criminal records that affected their ability to travel and to work in certain jobs such as teaching.
Political parties in the state of Tasmania have now also backed the idea of removing historical gay convictions from affected men’s records in that state.
Will Hodgman, who is expected to become the state’s new leader, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday that he supports the move in principal.
In the state of New South Wales (NSW), the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) on Monday called on its state’s government to also expunge the convictions of people convicted for homosexual sexual intercourse.
“30 years after decriminalisation, it is time for people who were unjustly convicted prior to 1984 to be able to have their convictions removed,” said GLRL convenor Dr Justin Koonin.
The organisation further called on the state to expunge the convictions of people who fell foul of the unequal age of consent laws that operated in NSW from 1984 and 2003.
“The unequal age of consent was always fundamentally unjust, discriminating between homosexual and heterosexual intercourse, and created an additional class of people in NSW who should now be able to apply to have their old convictions removed,” Dr Koonin added.
In 2012, the UK introduced a process to allow men who were historically convicted of having consensual gay sex to apply to expunge their criminal records. The intention to allow these men to clear their names was first announced by the UK’s Home Office in 2010.