Mark McGowan delivers historic apology to LGBTI people

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has delivered a historic apology to LGBTI people.

The Premier, on behalf of the government, apologised for past convictions for homosexuality, not only to those who fell foul of the laws, but those whose lives the threat of prosecution cast a shadow over.

With members of all sides of politics filling the chamber, and a packed public gallery above, the Premier said the laws of the past were wrong and unjust.

The Premier said today was about righting the wrongs of the past, and apologising, describing the action as long overdue. McGowan said laws which targeted people because of their sexuality were bad for all of society.

“These laws diminished our society because they diminished our people. These laws diminished our police, who were obliged to uphold them. They diminished gay men by rendering their love illegal and making their sexuality a source of shame. These laws diminished us all by encouraging a culture of prejudice.”

“It is hard to believe that it’s been in our lifetime that homosexuality was deemed a crime,” the Premier said at the beginning of his speech.

McGowan said successive governments had worked to remove discrimination from the lives of LGBTI Western Australians, highlighting the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1990 and the gay law reforms of 2002.

“It’s been 27 years since homosexual acts were decriminalised in Western Australia.

“I know for those convicted under these old, unjust laws it’s been a long wait to clear your names.

“And for those who have since died, these convictions remain an unjust epitaph to otherwise good lives. And this too must be remedied.” McGowan said.

The Premier said his government was introducing legislation today to expunge the convictions based around sexuality. The Premier said while men had been charged under different laws over the decades, they would bring in a process for men, and the relatives of those who have passed to remove unfair convictions.

“These acts should never have been considered a criminal offence and the men impacted should never have had a criminal record against their names.

“Hundreds of Western Australians have unfairly borne the stigma of having a criminal record for consensual acts that are no longer considered a crime.” McGowan said.

The Premier said the former laws had turned law abiding citizens into criminals and many still felt the effects of their convictions today.

“These men have lost jobs, friends, family, their freedom and their dignity. They have been prevented from travelling, gaining certain employment and volunteering. These laws turned law-abiding citizens into criminals due only to their sexual orientation.

“Gay Western Australian men were targeted and charged under these laws that were borne out of bigotry and fear.” the Premier declared.

The Labor leader said that it was important that people within the LGBTI community knew that they are valued in society.

“Our LGBTI community should never suffer injustice or indignity simply because of who they are,” McGowan said, “To all in our LGBTI community today I want you to know that you are good people. You are valued. And we are proud of you.”

State Opposition leader Dr Mike Nahan echoed the Premier’s comments and vowed to give in principle support to the bill that was being put forward.

Dr Nahan, said like to introduction of same-sex marriage, apologising for the wrongs a of the past, and correcting the record of those affected, was “long overdue”.

Dr Nahan said the laws had left gay men open to discrimination, alienation, entrapment and blackmail.

“The Liberal party supports this initiative to correct past injustices,” Dr Nahan said.

“Today we know it is not, and never should have been a crime.”

Shane Love, the member for Moore representing the Nationals, also voiced his support for the apology and subsequent legislation.

Graeme Watson

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