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Jeremy Corbyn calls for government apology for historical gay sex convictions

Nick Duffy July 18, 2017
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Jeremy Corbyn has called for a formal government apology to men with historical gay sex convictions.

The Labour leader was speaking at a PinkNews Parliamentary Reception to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

In recent years the government has rolled out a system to allow men with historical gay sex convictions to have their convictions disregarded and to receive a pardon.

50 years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Leader of the Opposition told the audience that the government should go further on the issue.

He said: “This year the government posthumously pardoned thousands of men convicted of offences that once criminalised homosexuality.

“I welcome it in a sense, but why would we seek a pardon for something that should never have been a crime in the first place?

“They deserve an apology, an apology for everything that went on.”

He added: “A love of one person for another should never be considered a crime, and I think the case of Alan Turing has been instructive for many people.

“He saved millions of lives by deciphering Nazi codes, a gay man who served this country and helped bring about the end of the World War, criminalised for his sexuality and then chemically castrated at the hands of the state. Immense physical and psychological harm which led to his suicide.

“A pardon for a man so unimaginably wronged seems insufficient to say the least. I think we should welcome an apology to every gay person who was ever persecuted.”

Mr Corbyn singled out George Montague, who was attending the event, for his long-running campaign on the issue.

Mr Montague, 94, was convicted under anti-gay laws as a young man, and battled for years for justice.

Mr Corbyn said: “I want to pay tribute to George Montague, who suffered awful discrimination, but used his experience for the benefit of others. Well done George on your fight, your campaign, and ultimately your victory.”

In his speech, Mr Montague responded: “I’m so honoured. I’m almost speechless.

“I had my speech prepared, but two days ago it had to change! I heard that New Zealand and New South Wales have given the full apology to the whole of their gay community. My speech was going to bully our government into doing the same for us, but I don’t think I need to bother. I think we’re going to get it.

“I hope before the next three weeks, when I shall appear for the ninth time at the best Pride in the land – Brighton Pride – I am very confident that we shall get it. My banner was going to say ‘come on, let’s have this apology’. It’s now going to have a big, bold ‘thank you’. And thank you all very much.”

The Labour leader also remarked on his memories of the 1967 law to partially decriminalise homosexuality.

He said: “This month is the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and I remember that time very well. I was at school, in fact I was just leaving school in 1967, and the headteacher advised me, ‘Corbyn, you’ll never make anything of your life!’

“At that time I was growing up in rural Shropshire, and what did was unleash a whole load of homophobic abuse, but also unleash a big debate that would not have happened otherwise, that began to force people to rethink their views on a whole lot of things.

“I would proud to vote for tge equalisation of the age of consent, and the equalisation of adoption law, and I was proud to vote for the repeal of Section 28 – but very angry I had to vote against the introduction of Section 28 in the first place. When that came in, it was a very serious backwards step.I’m glad that I was here to vote for civil partnerships for same-sex couples, which was a brilliant step forward.

“These great changes in Parliament don’t come from Parliament itself, they always come from campaigning that’s gone on outside, from very brave people who have given an awful lot and suffered a great deal.”

corbyn

Corbyn has long been a supporter of LGBT rights.

In recent times, he spoke to PinkNews before June’s election, pledging to appoint a dedicated global ambassador on LGBT rights to fight discrimination and promote equality globally.

He also criticised the Conservative Party’s cuts to local government funding, saying that their actions had “resulted in cutbacks to LGBT services, despite rising demand.

“Many have had to scale back and some have been forced to close their doors altogether,” he added.

“By protecting funding for local government, Labour will enable councils to keep open these crucial lifelines for the vulnerable parts of the LGBT community.”

The 68-year-old leader, who enjoyed significant gains in June’s election, also spoke to PinkNews as the Conservatives tried to tie up a deal with the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party following the vote.

He said: “LGBT rights are human rights.

“They must not be sold out by Theresa May and the Conservatives as they try to cling to power with the DUP.”

Less than two weeks ago, he confronted Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament with shocking statistics about LGBT hate crimes.

The Labour leader used PMQs to read out research by Pride in London that found a shocking number of Londoners have been a victim of hate crime.

In a question to Prime Minister Theresa May, Corbyn highlighted that “half of LGBT people in London had experienced hate crime.”

According to the study, 42% of LGBT Londoners have been a victim of hate crime in the last 12 months.

Corbyn also wore a pride pin badge during PMQs, emblazoned with the slogan of Pride in London: “Love Happens Here”.

Earlier this year, the government passed Turing’s Law, which pardoned thousands of men convicted of historical gay sex offences.

As well as the posthumous pardons, the Bill also enabled living gay men to apply though the Home Office’s disregard process to have their historical offences removed.

The PinkNews  Parliamentary Reception is generously supported by Lloyds Banking Group.

Lloyds Banking Group logo

Related topics: Conservative Party, democratic unionist party, general election 2017, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour party, parliament, Politics, prime minister theresa may, Theresa May, UK

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