Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement Bill passes lower house

The bill to expunge historical convictions for engaging in gay sex has passed the lower house of the Western Australian parliament.

The second reading of the bill was interrupted in late November, and yesterday parliament continued to discuss the proposed legislation that could potentially see hundreds of historical convictions wiped from people’s criminal records.

Politicians on both side of the chamber were in agreement that the bill was long overdue, and took turns speaking about why they supported the bill.

Cassie Rowe the member for Belmont said the bill was both important and symbolic.

“For decades these unjust laws allowed for open discrimination of gay men, perpetuating prejudice and bigotry, publicly shaming them for their sexuality and stripping them of their dignity, thus allowing for hatred to be tolerated and accepted. This sent a clear message to the gay community: “You are not considered equal in the eyes of the law.” This is clearly wrong.” Rowe told parliament.

The MP said there was still a lot of work to be done to remove homophobia from Western Australian society noting the recent cases of gay men being bashed in Thornlie, the dismissal of school teacher Craig Campbell from his employment, and the case of a Mandurah school threatening to expel a primary school student after they discovered her father was gay.

Conservative Liberal MP Peter Katsambanis also voiced his support for the bill. The member for Hillarys said the history of decriminalisation of homosexuality was something many people would consider to be a sad commentary on Australian society, noting that Western Australia took far too long in relation to other states to change the laws.

Katsambanis said successive Western Australian governments from both sides of politics had missed opportunities to make up for the past, and he was glad the bill was being moved forward now.

Southern River MLA Terry Healy spoke about how the issue was one the progressives and conservatives could agree upon. Healy shared that the federal member for Canning Andrew Hastie had visited the Western Australian parliament last year on the Premier has delivered his apology to those wrongly convicted.

“Andrew Hastie, the federal member for Canning, was here in the building on the day we apologised to all those homosexual men who had been convicted of these offences.” Healy said, “I went up to Mr Hastie and said, ‘Mr Hastie, can I say on behalf of all our community, how proud I am that you are here in this building on the day that we say sorry to all homosexual men convicted of such offences.’

After name checking some of the people who had contributed to the public debate on LGBTI rights, Healy said he was confident that, despite continued opposition from some parts of society, acceptance of LGBTI people would always progress. To illustrate his point, Healy quoted the lyrics from The Village People’s Can’t Stop the Music.

Liberal MP Zak Kirkup said many comments that has been made in parliament in the past could only be  described as “repugnant” and he was proud to be supporting the bill.

At the end of the debate the bill was read for a third time and will now progress to the Legislative Council.

OIP Staff, Image: WA Legislative Assembly published via Creative Commons BY-SA 3.o licence by Silverhorse