U.K. Gay Sex 'Offenders' to Get Clean Slate

It comes too late for Oscar Wilde, but not for thousands convicted under now-repealed laws.

BY Trudy Ring

May 03 2012 9:15 PM ET

The U.K. has passed a law allowing convictions for consensual gay sex under now-repealed laws to be expunged from citizens’ records.

The Protection of Freedoms Act, which has been approved by Parliament, received royal assent, that is, the approval of the queen, on Tuesday, allowing it to become law, Pink News reports.

The measure comes too late for such famous gay men as author Oscar Wilde (pictured) and mathematician Alan Turing, who were prosecuted under the nation’s antisodomy laws, but now thousands of men can apply to the secretary of state to have their convictions taken off their record.

“It’s estimated that over the last century in the region of 100,000 men in the U.K. were convicted of consenting same-sex offences that were not crimes between heterosexual men and women,” activist Peter Tatchell told Pink News. “Many had their lives ruined, including serving prison sentences, losing their jobs and suffering rejection by their families.

“This reform is welcome but it will come too late for many of the victims of Britain’s homophobic laws. It’s astonishing to think that the King Henry VIII anti-buggery law and the Oscar Wilde gross indecency law were only repealed in 2003.” Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1891 and served two years in prison. Turing, another famous victim of the antigay laws, helped the Allies win World War II by breaking the Germans’ Enigma Code, but he was forced to undergo chemical castration after his conviction. He subsequently committed suicide.

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