Scottish Gov. Will Apologize to Men with Gay Sex Convictions

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First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.

It’s not very often a government says sorry — yet Scotland’s ruling body has acknowledged where it went wrong.

On Nov. 7, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon will apologize on behalf of the government to men who were convicted for gay sex under now-abolished laws.

But the country is also backing up their apology with action. Scotland is publishing new legislation which gives automatic pardons to all convicted. Thanks to this new legislation, men with gay sex convictions before 2001 can apply to have them removed from their records.

“The First Minister will give a statement of apology to those convicted prior to 2001 under discriminatory laws against same-sex sexual activity that is now legal,” a Scottish Government spokesperson said. “The apology will be made on behalf of the Scottish Government for the treatment of homosexual men under previous governments and will coincide with the introduction of legislation to provide people convicted under these laws an automatic pardon.”

They added: “The Bill will right a historic wrong and give justice to those who found themselves unjustly criminalized simply because of who they loved.”

Sturgeon promised this legislation in September and it was confirmed by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson last year, according to The Independent.

In response, Equality Network Director Tim Hopkins said: “The apology is important because it shows that it was the discriminatory laws that were wrong, and not the consensual relationships that were made criminal by those laws.”

Hopkins pointed out the details of the bill have not been released yet — but if they are true to the word of the government, he believes it will be a huge step forward.

“If it implements the policy announced by the Scottish government, it will be a hugely important statement that Scotland regrets the discrimination of the past, and now considers its LGBTI people to be fully equal citizens who deserve equal respect,” he said. “It will also be of direct practical importance to people who currently have one of these convictions show up on criminal-record checks for jobs or volunteer posts.”

While some activists showed support, others encouraged a push even further.

“Nicola Sturgeon is making an unambiguous apology. I applaud the First Minister,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell according to Gay Star News. “I urge the Scottish government to follow the German government’s example by offering a symbolic compensation of around £3,000 to those men whose lives were ruined by homophobic laws. Many men were fined, jailed, lost their jobs, were forced out of their homes, subjected to gay-bashing and were driven to depression, alcoholism, mental illness and attempted suicide … They deserve recompense.” 


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