Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has apologised to LGBTI Tasmanians charged under the state’s historic anti-gay laws.
The Tasmanian government introduced legislation to wipe the criminal records of men who were convicted of sex with other men under the state’s historic laws criminalising homosexuality, or transgender people convicted under historic laws prohibiting cross-dressing.
The legislation would allow a person who was charged with related offences to apply to have the charge or conviction removed from their criminal record. Surviving family members or legal representative could apply on behalf of deceased men.
Mr Hodgman said the parliament recognises “laws criminalising consensual homosexual activity and cross-dressing were unfair and unjust.”
“We acknowledge that Tasmanians suffered as a result of these laws and we apologise to those directly affected in this way, and to their families and loved ones,” he said.
“Despite the repeal of homosexual offences, some men continue to have criminal records that affect aspects of their lives including work, volunteering and travelling. It’s something they have to live with every day.
“My government is seeking to remedy this as far as possible through this legislation, and it’s our view that the broader Tasmanian community would believe that people should never have been charged or convicted in the first place.
“We can’t change the past, nor can we undo that harm. We can apologise for it and we do so.”
Labor leader Rebecca White and Greens’ leader Cassy O’Connor also gave apologies, and all three politicians honoured local LGBTI campaigners including Rodney Croome (pictured, left) for their advocacy on the issue.
Mr Croome applauded the apology and said it would “heal the damage inflicted by by our old laws”.
“The message to those LGBTI Tasmanians who were convicted for being themselves is that the island society that once rejected them now embraces them,” he said.
“The Government’s legislation will directly benefit those people who were convicted under our old laws against homosexuality and cross-dressing by ensuring their criminal record does not appear whenever they apply for a job or a volunteer position.”
Mr Croome said that Mr Hodgman was the first Australian premier to commit to an apology, back in 2015, and will be the first Liberal leader to deliver one.
Sections 122 (a) and (c) and 123 of the Tasmanian Criminal Code criminalised all consensual sexual activity between men with a maximum penalty of 21 years in prison. Liberal Premier Tony Rundle decriminalised homosexuality in Tasmania in 1997.
“This apology is historic because Tasmania was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality, almost exactly 20 years ago on May 1, 1997, and our anti-gay laws attracted the most severe maximum punishment in the western world, 21 years in gaol,” Mr Croome said.
“It is also historic because Tasmania was the only state to criminalise cross-dressing and now the criminal records of transgender Tasmanians can be expunged as well.”
Last November, the Queensland government released draft legislation to parliament to expunge similar convictions held by Queensland men.