Target: The Right Honorable John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons
Goal: Pardon thousands of gay men convicted of abolished crimes in the UK, including an official apology.
Sixty-five thousand men convicted of “gross indecency” under antiquated anti-sodomy laws were set to be given automatic pardons and their records cleared, but Conservative justice minister Sam Gyimah obstructed the bill during UK Parliamentary debate by running out the clock. Gyimah argued that the bill would pardon men for things like rape or sex with minors, even though the bill clearly states that pardons would be issued only for people whose offenses are “no longer a crime” (i.e. simply having homosexual sex).
Gyimah’s filibuster at the debate prevented the advancement of the bill through the House of Commons by taking up so much time that the clock ran out, and the bill could not be passed into law. This was in spite of Labour MP Chris Bryant’s impassioned defense of the bill. Tens of thousands of lives were destroyed by the old, unjust laws. Men were incarcerated and chemically castrated for the “crime” of being gay, and those men deserve justice.
However many people, including Bryant, have made the case that this bill did not go far enough. While the dead would have been automatically pardoned, 15,000 living men would still have been required to apply to the Home Office. They would have to reopen the process of having someone analyze their guilt or innocence from decades ago, despite the fact that the law under which they were charged has been dismissed and abolished. What’s more, many argue that a pardon itself is insufficient—as it still implies past guilt that is simply being forgiven—and that the government should acknowledge itself as the real perpetrator of injustice and should also issue an apology.
Tens of thousands of gay and bisexual men and their loved ones suffered greatly because of their sexual orientation. They deserve an apology from their government to begin to right those wrongs. Demand that a bill be reintroduced addressing this issue.
Dear Right Honorable Bercow,
Tens of thousands of gay and bisexual men, many of whom are still living, were denied pardons after Sam Gyimah’s successful filibuster during the House of Commons debate. His argument that the bill might allow pardons to be granted to men who had sex with minors or were rapists was unfounded, since the bill clearly refers only to offenses that are “no longer a crime.” This injustice must be addressed.
Under the now-abolished anti-sodomy laws that saw 65,000 men convicted of “gross indecency,” homosexuality was punished by incarceration and castration. Particularly for the 15,000 of those men who are still living and whose lives were forever changed and even ruined by those laws, something must be done. I urge you not to let this disgraceful outcome stand, and to reintroduce legislation that will issue not just an automatic pardon but an official apology to these men for all that they have suffered.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: UK Parliament