British Government to Pardon Gay Codebreaker Alan Turing?

The gay mathematician who's credited with helping Allied forces win World War II may finally get a pardon for his 1952 conviction of 'gross indecency.'

BY Sunnivie Brydum

July 21 2013 1:20 PM ET

British mathematician Alan Turing may finally get a clean moral slate from the government that arrested and sentenced him to "chemical castration" in 1952 for the crime of "gross indecency" — also known as having a gay relationship. Turing died from cyanide poisoning two years later.

Turing, whose codebreaking algorithms helped pave the way for the modern computer and an Allied victory in World War II, is set to receive a posthumous parliamentary pardon from a conviction he faced under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, reports the Guardian. Nearly 50,000 gay men were sentenced under the antigay policy, including writer Oscar Wilde. Last year, the British government declined to issue pardons to those men convicted, all of whom are now dead, according to the Guardian. 

"Alan Turing himself believed that homosexual activity would be made legal by a royal commission," said Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a government whip."In fact, appropriately, it was parliament which decriminalized the activity for which he was convicted. The government are very aware of the calls to pardon Turing, given his outstanding achievements, and have great sympathy with this objective... That is why the government believe it is right that parliament should be free to respond to this bill in whatever way its conscience dictates and in whatever way it so wills."

Advocates have long asked the British government to pardon Turing, citing the unjust law under which he was prosecuted, and his numerous achievements. Turing is often called one of the "Fathers of computer science," and his algorithms helped Allied forces break the German Enigma code, often credited with opening the door to Adolf Hitler's defeat. 

The peer who introduced the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) Bill said it was time for the government to formally acknowledge its mistreatment of the mathematician. 

"The government knows that Turing was a hero and a very great man," said Liberal Democrat Lord Sharkey. "They acknowledge that he was cruelly treated. They must have seen the esteem in which he is held here and around the world."

Peers within the House of Lords told the Guardian they expect the bill to pass through the upper chamber of parliament with little controversy, and expect it to be delivered to the lower House of Commons by the end of October.

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