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Advocates call for WA government gay law apology

“It’s important that our parliament engages in reconciliation with its LGBTI community, especially as we progress towards equal marriage. We must acknowledge the past to build a bridge to the future.” – Brian Greig

Advocates for Western Australia’s LGBTI community have called on the McGowan Labor Government to offer a parliamentary apology to gay men convicted under the State’s previous anti-homosexual laws.

The call comes in the wake of Tasmanian Liberal Premier, Will Hodgman, offering an official apology in that State’s parliament yesterday.

Premier Hodgman now joins with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill as the three political leaders who have expressed a formal apology for the trauma this caused for generations of gay men and their communities.

WA spokesman for lobby group Just Equal, Brian Greig, said South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania (with Queensland soon to follow) have all expunged the criminal records of men who were convicted under 19th century anti-homosexual laws imported from the UK.

“Five Australian jurisdictions have wiped these criminal records from their books, but only three have coupled this action with an official apology. We are calling on Premier McGowan to do both,” Mr Greig said.

Prior to the election McGowan gave a commitment to expunge these historic convictions but has not expressed a view on an apology.

“If the Liberal Premier of Tasmania can do this, I’m confident the Labor Premier for WA can do it too,” Mr Greig said.

Until 1989, consensual sex between men in WA was a criminal office that attracted a penalty of 14 years in prison – ‘with or without whipping.’

Between 1989 and 2002 homosexuality was decriminalised for males over 21 and the law was not fully made equal with heterosexual sex until a consent age of 16 for all people was established during Premier Geoff Gallop’s first term of office.

“These laws ruined lives, careers, reputations, led to marriage breakdowns, social isolation and suicide. Some men who lived through this dark period, despite the repeal of homosexual offences, continue to have criminal records that affect their lives in areas such as work, volunteering or travelling.

“It’s hard to believe that the same law which jailed Oscar Wilde was still operating in WA almost 30 years ago,” Mr Greig said.

Mr Greig said a parliamentary apology was a more humane way to deal with this matter rather than just wiping convictions alone, as it would go a long way to healing the psychological scars of many men, righting the wrongs of the past both legally and socially.

“It’s important that our parliament engages in reconciliation with its LGBTI community, especially as we progress towards equal marriage. We must acknowledge the past to build a bridge to the future,” Mr Greig said.
Brian Greig

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