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Northern Ireland Declines to Pardon Men Convicted Under Sodomy Laws

Alan Turing

So far, the government has declined every opportunity to wipe away sodomy convictions with the Turing law. 

Northern Ireland has declined to pardon two men previously convicted of now-defunct antisodomy laws.

Despite a law in effect for nearly a year allowing gay and bisexual men to seek pardons for past convictions, the government in Northern Ireland has turned down the only requests, according to the BBC.

Activists wished more men previously convicted under the archaic laws had applied for pardons in the first year.

"This criminalization damaged many people's lives and left them with a criminal record for doing nothing wrong," John O'Doherty, spokesman for the Rainbow Project, told the news outlet.

"While it is disappointing that more people didn't apply for a pardon, it doesn't take away from the important message sent by the introduction of pardons."

The law has been called Alan Turing's law, after the British mathematician who cracked the Germans' Enigma Code in World War II but who was later convicted under British antigay laws and chemically castrated. Turing died in 1954, an apparent suicide.

It's believed as many as 100,000 men in the United Kingdom were convicted in the last century, many for violating antibuggery laws on the books for hundreds of years.

But since passage of Turing's law in Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., few have applied for pardons and none have had pardons issued.

The BBC notes that in some parts of the United Kingdom, applications for pardons have been turned down because they pertained to laws still on the books, like having sex in public places. But that wasn't the case with the two Northern Ireland men whose pardons were denied.

Throughout the U.K., fewer than half of applicants for pardons have had past convictions disregarded, reports the BBC.

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