Thursday, November 10, 2016

Northern Ireland plans to pardon Gay and Bisexual Men

Northern Ireland's Justice Minister has confirmed that a motion will go before lawmakers seeking approval to pardon gay and bisexual men convicted of abolished gay and bi sex offenses in the province.

The motion will now go before the Assembly for approval, and brings the country in line with England and Wales, who last month announced plans for automatic pardons to those convicted of such offences who have since died.

If it passes, the law – which has been dubbed Turing’s Law after gay Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing – will also allow living gay and bisexual men with historic convictions to apply for pardons.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Justice Minister Sugden said arrangements will be made “as soon as possible to ensure that there is equal treatment for gay and bisexual men here as for their counterparts in England and Wales.”

Sugden added:
“It is particularly important for people whose reputations were destroyed in years gone by. In some cases they died having gone to jail.

“Their characters were damaged and job opportunities seriously curtailed and quite often many men committed suicide rather than go to court.”

“This is an opportunity for the criminal justice system to try and right the wrongs of the past and one which will allow for much earlier resolve than that presented by way of an Assembly Bill.”

Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty said: “This is the first time that the Northern Ireland Assembly has made positive moves in respect of LGBT legislation and we are hopeful that with cross-party support the pardons will be applicable to convictions made against gay men living in Northern Ireland.

“It was only in 1982 that the criminalisation of gay and bisexual men in Northern Ireland was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights and we are pleased to see these homophobic and discriminatory convictions quashed, especially as they ruined the lives of so many men in Northern Ireland at the time.”

LGBT rights are still being fought for in Northern Ireland, where gay marriage and bisexual marriage has been repeatedly blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party, leaving it as the only country in the UK that doesn’t offer such recognition.

Despite this, a recent petition to introduce marriage equality in the country was signed by over 20,000 people, and polls have shown that the majority (68%) of the country are in favour of gay marriage and bisexual marriage.