Britain to posthumously pardon thousands of gay men, spurred by Alan Turing

George Montague explains why he wants an apology, not a pardon, for being gay
(Image credit: BBC/YouTube)

On Thursday, Britain's Conservative government said that it will posthumously pardon thousands of men convicted of crimes relating to homosexuality, like buggery, gross indecency, and loitering with intent, often in men's restrooms. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.K. in stages between 1967 and 1982, and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014. John Sharkey, the member of the House of Lords who proposed the forthcoming law, also pushed through a 2009 formal government apology to Alan Turing, the mathematician and World War II codebreaker who was convicted on homosexuality charges in 1952 and committed suicide two years later. Queen Elizabeth II pardoned Turing in 2013, and the new law will be named after him.

Sharkey estimates that some 65,000 men were convicted under the anti-homosexuality laws — lesbian activity was never specifically made illegal in Britain — and 15,000 are still alive. Not all deceased gay men would be eligible for pardon — certain acts, like sexual activity in a public lavatory, are still illegal. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde may or may not be eligible under the new law, because of the particulars of his case, The New York Times notes.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.