The shameful filibustering of the Turing Bill denies justice to thousands of gay men and exposes the homophobia at the heart of the Tory Party, writes Steph Pike
On Friday Tory Minister Sam Gyimah MP spoke in Parliament for twenty five minutes to sabotage the ‘Turing Bill’ which would have granted automatic pardons to all men convicted of historic ‘gay sex crimes’.
The bill was named after Alan Turing who was a Manchester based gay man and computer scientist credited with inventing the first computer and Artificial Intelligence and was instrumental in cracking the enigma code estimated to have shortened the Second World War by 2 years, saving 14 million lives.
Having played a pivotal role in defeating the Nazis who persecuted lesbians and gay men, murdering up to 15,000 in the concentration camps, it was a sick irony that Alan Turing was then persecuted by the British Government as were an estimated 57,000 other gay men 15,000 of whom are thought to be still living.
Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and subjected to the violence and humiliation of chemical castration. He was continually harassed by the security services and killed himself in 1954.
In 2013 the government posthumously pardoned Alan Turing and from 2012 gay men could apply for convictions for historic 'gay sex crimes' to be 'disregarded'.
The government has put an amendment to the new Police and Crime Bill that would allow those gay men who have successfully applied to have their convictions 'disregarded' to then receive a pardon. The Government’s amendment however is totally inadequate in redressing the injustice and damage suffered by those gay men convicted of ant-gay laws.
Since 2012 when gay men could apply to have their historic convictions ‘disregarded’ there have only been 320 applications. Of those applications only 83 have been successful. The Government’s amendment will leave thousands and thousands of gay men with unjust convictions.
To counter this continued injustice, SNP MP John Nicholson brought in a private members bill, ‘Turing’s Bill’, which would have granted automatic pardons to all gay men, living and dead, convicted of historic ‘gay sex crimes’, crimes which are no longer on the statute book.
In a move that betrays the homophobia that still lies at the heart of the Tory party, the government not only refused to back ‘Turing’s Bill’ but made sure it was ‘killed’ by the disgraceful filibustering of the bill by Tory Minister Sam Gyimah.
The rationale the government gives for opposing Turing’s Bill is that granting automatic pardons to all men convicted of historic ‘gay sex crimes’ would mean that some men who had raped and/or had sex with young men under the age of 16 would be pardoned.
This excuse is both untrue and homophobic; the bill presented by the SNP MP specifically states that only ‘offences’ that were consensual and are no longer an offence under modern British law would be eligible for a pardon, and the Government’s suggestions that some men would ‘get away’ with their crimes repeats and reinforces the age-old homophobic stereotypes of gay men as predatory and/or pedophiles.
So what is the Tory’s, whose Government who brought us gay marriage, relationship to LGBT liberation? It is at best one of tolerance; tolerance as long as we are prepared to be assimilated into the system of the ruling class; as long as we spend the pink pound, marry, join the army and police, are compliant cogs in the capitalist machine, don’t rock the boat. And underneath this veneer of tolerance is the homophobia that still lies at the heart of the Tory Party, which can be seen in the government’s refusal to support Turing’s Bill.
Turing’s Bill would have gone a long way to redress the injustice suffered by thousands and thousands of gay men. But even this would not go far enough. The government must apologise to all LGBT people who have suffered under homophobic laws and state sanctioned homophobia, homophobia that continues alive and well today. And those gay men whose careers have been ruined as a result of having convictions for sex offences and being on the sex offenders register should be compensated.
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