NSW delivers formal apology to LGBT community for criminalised homosexuality

NSW delivers formal apology to LGBT community for criminalised homosexuality
Image: NSW Premier Chris Minns Delivers LGBT Apology. Image: Legislative Assembly webcast

This story was originally published in the Star Observer.

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns has officially delivered a formal apology in NSW Parliament to the LGBTQI+ community for the criminal history of homosexuality, particularly those who were convicted under these laws prior to 1984.

Premier Minns addressed the lower house at 12:30pm on 6 June 2024, to “unreservedly” apologise to all those who suffered under homosexuality being a criminal act.

Present in the chambers were several 78ers, the participants in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras held on 24 June, 1978 and in subsequent protests against police violence.

Minns’ apology acknowledged the role of NSW Parliament in “enacting laws and endorsing policies of successive governments decisions that criminalised, persecuted and harmed people based on their sexuality and gender”.

Minns’ historic speech also recognised “the trauma people of diverse sexualities, their families and loved ones have endured and continue to live with,” and acknowledged “that there is still much more work to do to ensure the equal rights of all members of the LGBTQIA+ community”.

“40 years ago, New South Wales ended the legal criminalisation of homosexuality in this state. And here today, as a Parliament and a state, as people that want to make good, we are here to apologise for every life that was damaged, or diminished, or destroyed by these unjust laws,” said Minns.

“To those who survived these terrible years, and to those who never made it through, we are truly sorry. We are sorry for every person convicted under legislation that should never have existed.”

NSW Parliament Delivers Formal Apology. Image: Legislative Assembly webcast

The apology spoke to the trauma experienced by the LGBTQI+ community, as well as their families and their loved ones.

Attorney General, the Hon. Michael Daley, acknowledged the enormous amounts of convictions, fines and prison sentences that criminalised homosexuality caused. He also thanked activists for their indefatigable work in making change – in particular, the 78ers.

The Attorney General acknowledged that police often used to trap gay and bisexual men, such as entrapment tactics at gay beats.

“Sex between two men was criminalised under the Crimes Act 1900 – though there was a loophole, a so-called loophole, if it was consensual. That provision was removed in the 50s,” said Daley. “But the police were given powers to arrest anyone committing was deemed an ‘indecent act’, even if it WAS consensual.”

“Nobody should be told they are broken for liking – or even worse, loving – someone of the same sex, or identifying as a certain gender… No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. It should not happen today, and it should not have happened 40 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 100 years ago.”

NSW is the last state to issue an apology for the trauma experienced by our community when homosexuality was a criminal act. Both Victoria and South Australia parliaments formally apologised to their respective LGBTQI+ communities in 2016.

The Hon. Penny Sharpe MLC – who is the first lesbian to serve in NSW parliament, and can be seen on the cover of Star Observer’s June issue, will deliver a formal apology in the Legislative Council at 2pm.

Criminalised homosexuality affected everyone in LGBTQI+ community

40 years on, people still live with the trauma and harm these laws created.

Star Observer spoke to First Mardi Gras co-chair Ken Davis for this month’s feature story on the NSW apology, who said:

“The consequences for being arrested… were enormous in terms of your family, lost jobs and scholarships, even mandated psychiatric intervention,” says Davis.

“And a lot of situations where people were facing prosecution or psychiatric intervention, or the social cost of their family, career, education, or just their overall social standing were simply too great. And people killed themselves.”

And while criminalised homosexuality legally only extended to homosexual acts between men, all in the LGBTQI+ community were targeted via countless legal loopholes and government-backed discrimination. For example, using ‘public indecency’ entrapments at beats or in toilets, public space laws being used to punish any same-sex attracted people for showing one another affection.

“Criminalisation gave a free pass to institutions and the community to discriminate against members of the LGBTIQ+ community,” Sharpe told Star Observer.

Read the NSW apology for those convicted under criminalisation of homosexuality in full

You can read the full transcript of the apology here, or watch the apology here.

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