Victoria Apologises For Convictions Under Outdated Gay Laws

'Nothing less than state-sanctioned homophobia.'

24/05/2016 1:31 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Fairfax Media
Daniel Andrews has apologised for "unjust" laws.

The Victorian government and Premier Daniel Andrews have apologised to countless men convicted of offences while homosexuality was criminalised in the state.

The historic apology was delivered in the state's parliament on Tuesday, the next step in the government's plan to right the wrongs of the past. Until 1980, homosexuality was an offence in Victoria, and men could be sentenced for up to 15 years in prison for sex with other men, under offences including buggery, gross indecency, indecent assault on a male, and loitering or soliciting for homosexual purposes.

No accurate data was kept on the number of arrests and prosecutions over such offences, the government said in a statement, but "police reports suggest there were several hundred reported offences per year".

Andrews announced the plan to address the historic offences back in January, and on Tuesday, formally apologised to people convicted under the outdated and archaic legislation.

"We apologise for the laws we passed, the standards we set and the lives we ruined," he said.

"These unjust laws amounted to nothing less than state-sanctioned homophobia."

"This Parliament is to be formally held to account for designing a cult of hatred. And those who faced its sanction are to be formally recognised for their relentless pursuit of freedom."

"These laws did not just punish homosexual acts, they punished homosexual thought. They had no place in a liberal democracy, they have no place anywhere. The Victorian Parliament and the Victorian Government were at fault, for this we are sorry. On behalf of this House, we express our deepest regret."

Minister for Equality, Martin Foley, also added his own apology.

"Today we say sorry to those Victorians who were wrongfully arrested, locked up and humiliated – whose very love was made punishable by law," Foley said.

"We will remember the painful history which has made this apology necessary in the first place – and ensure we continue to foster a community that accepts, tolerates and provides a place for all."

The apology follows the Victorian government's scheme, instituted in September 2015, where people convicted of those offences could apply to have them struck from their record, as part of changes to the state's sentencing legislation.

"The changes to the Sentencing Act 1991 recognise that homosexual sex between consenting adults should never have been a crime," the government said at the time.

"A person with an expunged conviction may legally claim not to have been convicted or found guilty of that offence; is not required to disclose that conviction or finding of guilt for any purpose; and cannot be denied a job or position due to that conviction or finding of guilt. The historical conviction will no longer show up on a police records check."

In the leadup to the apology, Andrews' Facebook page has shared stories of some of the men convicted of the offences.

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