Rights groups welcome ACT’s move to erase left-over gay sex convictions

Rights groups welcome ACT’s move to erase left-over gay sex convictions

Rights groups have welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement that it will legislate to erase the criminal records of homosexual men who were convicted for having consensual sex in the past when it was illegal.

The Chair of the ACT Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Advisory Council, Heidi Yates, warmly welcomed the announcement.

“This sends a powerful message of support to our community and will go some way to redressing the harm that these unjust convictions have caused over the years. We look forward to working with the ACT Government on the development of this important legislation,” said Ms Yates.

The ACT announcement follows the passage of legislation in Victoria and NSW in 2014 and consideration of similar schemes is underway in Tasmania and Queensland. South Australia added homosexual offences to its spent convictions scheme in 2013.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy, Anna Brown, has been providing legal assistance to men who have been unfairly burdened by criminal records imposed when unjust laws criminalised sexual relations between men and advocating for the introduction of these schemes across Australia.

“It’s extremely pleasing to see the ACT Government has joined the growing numbers of states across Australia acting to end the stigma, shame and practical difficulties these discriminatory laws have inflicted for decades. Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised,” said Ms Brown.

Until 1976 consensual homosexual sex was illegal in the ACT. Gay men were convicted for offences such as “buggery on a male person” and “indecent assault on a male person”. Today, unknown numbers of men live with the shame, stigma and barriers to work, volunteer and travel caused by a criminal conviction for conduct that is lawful today.

The ACT Government’s LGBTIQ Advisory Council and Human Rights Law Centre hope to work with the ACT Government on the development of the scheme.

“These men have already lived through significant trauma so it’s crucial that the scheme is confidential, accessible and fair,” said Ms Brown.

 

For further queries or comment, please contact:
Anna Brown, Director of Strategic Litigation and Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre on 0422 235 522
Individuals with queries about the progress of the reforms can contact the LGBTIQ Advisory Council secretariat via email (Matthew.Clissold@act.gov.au).