Turing Law grants amnesty to LGBT citizens
by Kelly Tyra
Co-editor in chief
Great strides for the international LGBT community were made this week in the United Kingdom. On October 21st, Parliament decided to grant pardons to all those convicted under homophobic legislation that prohibited homosexual persons from engaging in same sex relationships. Homophobic legislation has long history in the U.K., in 1533 under the rule of King Henry the VIII, (yeah, that one) anal intercourse of any kind was punishable by death in accordance with the Buggery Act.
In 1885, twenty years after the last execution was carried out under the Buggery Act, Parliament enacted the Labourchere Amendment. This law prohibited “gross indecency” between two males and was used to persecute any men who were suspected of being homosexual. This amendment was invoked to convict writer Oscar Wilde, war hero Alan Turing, and many other men who would be considered completely innocent today. Alan Turing’s story recently popped back into the spotlight with the release of The Imitation Game. The Academy Award nominated film chronicled the life of the World War II codebreaker, who was chemically castrated in 1951 after being found guilty of homosexual acts. Alan Turing committed suicide three years later at the age of fifty-four.
Homophobic parameters guided U.K. legislation much more recently than one may think. Until the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act was enacted, the age of consent required for private homosexual activities between two men was higher than the age of consent for heterosexual or lesbian activities. The Act lowered the age of homosexual consent to the U.K. standard of sixteen in 2001.
The recently passed legislation shows the U.K.’s dedication to creating a more tolerant state for citizens of all sexual orientations. The law was appropriately named for Alan Turing who was pardoned post-mortem by Queen Elizabeth in 2013. The Turing Law aims to posthumously pardon the tens of thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted of the since abolished offenses. Those previously convicted can now apply through the U.K.’s Home Office to have their criminal records checked and corrected. Many have criticized this Bill for not going far enough and encourage Parliament to grant a blanket pardon for those convicted of offenses that would not be considered illegal in the U.K. at present. Wronged LGBT community members are also calling on Parliament to issue a formal apology to those citizens who were treated inhumanely for their sexuality.
Among them is the so called ‘oldest gay man alive’ ninety-six year old George Montague (no, not those Montagues). Montague has refused to accept the governments pardon because to him it seems like an “admission of guilt.” Montague affirms and is correct in affirming that he has committed no crime rendering the very act of Parliamentary pardon inappropriate. In his own words: “if you’re born only able to love and be in love with another a man -- which means you’re gay -- then it can’t be a crime. How can that be a crime? It’s not fair.” Right on.
Clearly, the wounds inflicted on members of the LGBT community cannot be so easily remedied. However, the Turing Law seems to be a step in the right direction. Perhaps the Queen should step in herself and send the wronged citizens she rules over a gift basket filled with LGBTea. After years of persecution, they certainly deserve a cuppa.