One Equal World

Apology to Queer Citizens in Victoria

Posted on: June 8, 2016

daniel-andrews

Image via The Saturday Paper: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and Noel Tovey (seated) outside Parliament House.

In the Australian state of Victoria, homosexuality (for men) was a crime until 1981, which is frighteningly recent. Even after it was decriminalized, the criminal records of those arrested and jailed under the law weren’t vacated. Those still in prison were set free, but the arrest record haunted them, making employment and travel humiliatingly difficult.

Last year in 2015, the Victorian government finally began a process to clean those records. And on Tuesday, May 24th, the very first official apology from the state government to its queer citizens was given by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Laws against homosexuality are inherently abusive and Victoria’s was no exception. One of the men present to hear the apology, Tom Anderson, was forced to plead guilty at fourteen to the medieval-era crimes of buggery and gross indecency for the crime of being sexually abused by a man three times his age. Anderson said in a speech before the formal apology that only now did he finally feel like his government did not still think him a criminal.

Australia inherited its anti-homosexuality laws from the United Kingdom, as the Buggery Act of 1533. The various states did not begin repealing those laws until the 1970s. Tasmania was the last to repeal theirs in 1997, and only when forced to it by the United Nations. Perhaps in an effort to cleanse their image, Tasmania was also the first Australian state to recognize same sex marriage, barely 7 years later.

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