ALAN TURING LAW: Britain To Formally Pardon 65,000 Gay Men Convicted Under Sodomy Laws [VIDEO]

Last month the office of British Prime Minister Teresa May signaled that this would happen but gave no timeline. Today we get confirmation. The Guardian reports:

Gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences in England and Wales are to receive posthumous pardons, the government has announced. Thousands of living men convicted over consensual same-sex relationships will also be eligible for the pardon.

Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey, who proposed the amendment to the Policing and Crimes Bill, said it was “momentous”. It follows the pardoning of World War Two code-breaker Alan Turing for gross indecency in 2013.

Under the amendment – dubbed “Turing law” – deceased people who were convicted of sexual acts that are no longer deemed criminal will receive an automatic pardon. Anyone living who has been convicted of such offences could already apply through the Home Office to have the offence wiped from their criminal records.

But now, if the Home Office agrees that the offence is no longer an offence under current law, they will automatically be pardoned. Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said it was “hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offences who would be innocent of any crime today”.

An estimated 15,000 men convicted under the law are still living. Hit the link for a compelling video featuring a survivor who says he will refuse to accept the pardon because that implies guilt.

  • Dreaming Vertebrate

    Doubtful many of the lawmakers who originally passed these discriminatory laws could even pass the Turing Test – they had no humanity. Clearly just mindless, inhuman automatons.

  • PickyPecker
  • crewman

    That evokes so many feelings for me. I’m grateful they’re doing it, but it exhumes the ghosts of so many painful incidents. Meanwhile some states in the US would sacrifice goats and small children to criminalize homosexuality again if they could. But this is one generation doing what they can to right the wrongs of the previous generation.

    • EweTaw

      When I was 19 I was busted in flagrante delicto with a beautiful, yet tortured, blonde hunk of a student from BYU. We were up a local canyon hidden in the bushes pleasuring each other in a romantic small clearing. BYU campus police swooped down upon us like raptors and dragged us off to the Provo Jail in our underwear. We spent the night in jail and appeared before a city judge the next morning who convicted us of a trespassing charge. Let’s review: both of us were of age, on State Forest Land up a canyon, and campus police from BYU? We had to share a $25.00 fine and were let go, even though both of us pleaded not guilty. Remember, this happened in the “different” world of Utah. The curious thing, and for which we were very grateful, is that they didn’t charge us with gross acts of indecency, public lewdness and sodomy — all very popular offenses in the late 1960s.

      Fast forward 40 years. I received a letter from the Utah State Office of Criminal Records that I was eligible to have my notorious criminal record expunged if I could locate the judge who sentenced and fined us and have him sign a formal request to expunge the crime. A little too late, in my opinion. The judge had died 20 years earlier.

      But at least my terribly embarrassing anti social criminal record which shows I cannot be trusted to walk among people better than me doesn’t show I was arrested for fucking under the stars. Sheesh.

      • Tor

        The other good thing is that you were not classified as a sex offender. That’s something you cannot shake.

        • EweTaw

          I know. Trust me, I know. It’s always interesting to log on to the Utah Sex Offenders site and see how many people I know who have been arrested for lewd conduct in public restrooms. Even more interesting is how many of them are stuffy arrogant members of the SLC LGBT community who have reputations for looking down on others for being “promiscuous.” Never fails to drive me crazy.

      • SockMikey

        Title of link below is misleading, but worth reading.

        • EweTaw

          Thanks for directing me to the article. The mention of over 100 men arrested for “loitering to commit homosexual acts” happened at what used to be called Bare Ass Beach, a remote part of the Great Salt Lake more than 15 miles west of SLC in SL County on public land. You needed a 4×4 vehicle to reach the remote sand dunes or risk getting stuck driving a rear wheel drive car. The place was as remote and away from people as possible. The City police and County Sheriff Dept. colluded to send hunky officers to go out there and sun bathe nude. Once they had identified a bunch of men who were decidedly gay, they pounced and arrested them carte blanche.

          Also, I too have been harassed by SLC police for sitting in a vehicle above the Capitol on a dirt road looking at the lights and necking. My reaction was to buy a Jeep so I could climb higher in the foothills above the city where a police car can’t get to.

          But, yeah. SLC police, despite their supposedly wonderful LGBT out reach program will still harass you for holding hands in City Creek Canyon, Liberty Park, Memory Grove, etc. They can’t seem to quit the habit.

      • greenmanTN

        There is a documentary about this called Tearoom.

        In 1962 Ohio the police put a camera behind a one-way mirror and filmed men having sex, then arrested them. This is some of the footage.

  • bkmn

    How about some reparations? These folks had their lives ruined.

    • Jay George

      And cut short.

    • vorpal

      The hormonal torture that Turing endured unjustly despite being a pioneer in computer science and a hero in WW2 is fucking unforgivable. There is no amount of money that can undo his justifiable suicide. We have to make sure that these “religious values” are never inflicted on anyone ever again.

  • PickyPecker

    If you have not had the chance to see ‘The Imitation Game,’ I strongly recommend it.[email protected]_V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg

  • Mark

    AND apologize….publicly.

  • Tulle Christensen

    I think it is 65,536 that will be pardoned

  • Lane

    I had no idea there were _that_ many people — men — convicted in the UK. That’s simply mind-boggling. And those are just the ones convicted, right? Not the ones threatened “quit your job as a ____ or we’ll charge you” or similar bullshit.

    • ChrisMorley

      When they partly decriminalised gay sex in 1967, police increased their surveillance and prosecutions. The reform paradoxically created more crimes and increased penalties. It was another 38 years before the age of consent was equalised.

      • Lane

        Ugh. Nope, didn’t realize that either. Thanks for the insight.

    • Reality.Bites

      I’m guessing most were pled out in exchange for a fine.

      • Lane

        But even if not formally charged and seen through the courts — just that many arrested and processed, etc — that’s a lot of people over the years.

  • ShawnSwagger
  • EweTaw

    Accepting the pardon implies guilt? I get that.

    • Zach

      Well, they were guilty. Of a stupid, horrible law. But it was the law of the land, and I assume was democratically established. As a gay lawyer I’m torn between what I “know to be right” in both realms of my being.

      • BobSF_94117

        One realm of your being needs to read up on unjust laws.

        • Zach

          The “unjustness” or unconstitutionality of a law is a finding necessarily made by a court of competent jurisdiction. No such decision was rendered in this case – the law was simply repealed. Of course this law was unjust… but opposing an unjust law does not make one any less guilty of breaching that law.

          • Exo

            A law can’t really be unconstitutional in the UK anyway, since we have no constitution.

          • BobSF_94117

            This issue leaves me in a very bad mood. We probably agree, to a large extent, on the proper response to unjust laws (not that there’s just one response). Given the nature of internet exchanges, I should have just bitten my lip at the “torn”.

  • Dreaming Vertebrate

    Turing cracked the code and helped stop fascism and the Nazis.
    The clock of history has advanced, but once again we need a code breaker to release Trump’s taxes and help stop a resurgent fascism in its tracks.

  • Harry Underwood

    Pardons? What about EXONERATIONS?

    • Nychta

      This morning NPR interviewed an English man who is subject to the pardon. He was outraged that anyone had been charged to begin with and wanted no part of the pardon.

    • SilasMarner

      Yeah, fuck their pardon.

  • HZ81

    15K still living with a label of state-sponsored bigotry.

  • barrixines

    Good on you George Montague – tell them to stick their pardon right up their arses.

  • Natty Enquirer

    Expungement, although having the precise same effect, would be preferable. A pardon is forgiveness and forgiveness implies wrongdoing. It is not wrong to break an unjust law.

  • another_steve

    My husband tells me Oscar Wilde is not included in this. Perhaps because of the Irish connection?

    Anyone have the details?

    • Randy503

      He should be included. He was convicted under British law. I don’t think Wilde was the citizen of another country at the time.

    • ChrisMorley

      Wilde’s case was legaly complex. Nothing to do with Ireland, which at that time was part of the UK.

      ‘If the historical homosexual crime is no longer illegal and involved a consensual act with someone over the age of 16, then those convicted will be deemed to have received a posthumous pardon.
      The complexity of the evidence that led to Wilde’s conviction in 1895
      for gross indecency – including evidence of procuring male prostitutes –
      would make it difficult to assess. The gay rights organisation Stonewall suggested that the playwright and author, who was sentenced to two years hard labour in Reading jail, should now be entitled to a pardon.’

  • Javier Smith

    Rather than a pardon I think an apology is in order.

    • Tor


    • Zach

      I don’t think an apology has the legal ramifications that these men need.

    • BobSF_94117

      Why stop at apologies? What about reparations?

  • Gene Perry

    Pardon? You pardon someone who is guilty. These guys (and gals) weren’t guilty of anything. Piss off, Brits! Too little too late, mate.

    • Zach

      Yes they were, though. We may not agree with the law, but it was the law, and they breached the law. A very stupid and hateful law, but the law nonetheless.

      • Randy503

        True. No one declared the law in Britain unconstitutional. If they had (and I don’t know if they have a mechanism for doing so in British law), then you could say that the law was never an enforceable law.

        But from what I understand, parliament repealed the law. That means that while the law was in effect, anyone who violated it was being unlawful. Therefore, they were guilty of violating the law. The fact that the law was repealed has NO effect upon anyone who was previously convicted under the law.

        • ChrisMorley

          The UK doesn’t have a written constitution, so no law can be declared unconstitutional.
          The courts can declare that the law is incompatible with the Human Rights Act, but they can’t set such a law aside.

        • Exo

          We have no codified constitution, so no law can be unconstitutional really. It could clash with previous laws and the courts can tell parliament it’s incompatible with something previous (especially the human rights act) but Parliament has to fix it.

  • greenmanTN

    One thing about Alan Turing’s suicide/death has always stood out for me. Supposedly he injected cyanide into an apple, then ate the apple.

    Was the apple symbolic, a way to mask the taste?

    In any case, what the Bristish authorities did to Turing was horrific, especially since he helped bring WWII to an end and many more people would have died.

    • BobSF_94117

      I’ve heard of others using an apple to deliver the poison. It’s about taste.

    • Ernest Endevor

      This is probably not what happened. It was likely accidental.

      • greenmanTN

        I know the accident scenario, that he was careless with cyanide. But Turing was a mathematician, so why would he have cyanide in the first place?

        This is from Wikipedia:

        Andrew Hodges and another biographer, David Leavitt, have both suggested that Turing was re-enacting a scene from the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), his favourite fairy tale, both noting that (in Leavitt’s words) he took “an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew”.[115]

        • Ernest Endevor

          According to one of his best friends he had a hobby of gold-plating various objects. For that you use cyanide. His friend, among others, notes that he was in a very confined space and likely became overcome by the fumes as he was gold-plating a spoon (if this seems like an improbable hobby he was an Englishman of his time). Same friend attests that he was never ashamed of his homosexuality and had recovered from his prison ordeal with spirit intact. The famous apple was never tested and the autopsy left much to be desired. For myself, I find the ‘tortured gay genius poisons self like Sleeping Beauty’ ties in with too many stereotypes.

          • greenmanTN

            This will probably sound really cynical but i like the suicide version because it’s a more powerful narrative, where a brilliant mathematician and hero killed himself due to being hounded to death by a homophobic government. Turing is dead so doesn’t care, and the suicide scenario is politically convenient for the LGBT community.

            And, yeah, I could have done without the Snow White business.

          • Ernest Endevor

            Of course. That’s why it’s proved to be so potent. Too much now can never be known. I guess it depends on the kind of Turing we want him to be. And let’s remember, these people attended public schools and then Oxbridge which were empires of homosexual romance.

          • greenmanTN

            According to what I’ve read, Turing was “chemically castrated,” given female hormones to arrest his libido, but he started to grow breasts, and other physical changes that made him despondent.

            Is that true or just one of those “I read it on the internet” things?

          • vorpal

            Exactly this. This is what I have heard as well. Between being forced to endure such horrific changes AND a storm of hormonal imbalance in the body, I suspect it a deliberate suicide.

          • Ernest Endevor

            He was for, I think a year. It was standard treatment for the time but stopped with his release from jail. I don’t know the real story, I wasn’t there, but those who were challenge the popular victim narrative.

          • William

            I thought it was his mother who pushed the accidental version of his death.

          • Ernest Endevor

            She agrees with it but didn’t push it. Heres the BBC.

          • NancyP

            How about “MI6 doesn’t trust him anymore and would like him permanently out of the way” – this was the era of the Cambridge Five spies, most of whom were gay.

          • Ernest Endevor

            Where does that quote come from? Sounds extremely unlikely.

          • vorpal

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he forced into hormonal “therapies?”

          • Ernest Endevor

            Yes he was. As I remember for a year. That was standard procedure. Then it stopped. According to his friend – wish I could remember this in more detail, it’s a fascinating story and was published in, I think, the Guardian – according to him, Turing was very well-adjusted before and sloughed off the effects of his bad treatment. It would seem that he was by no means the victim he’s made out to be in the popular account. I posted a link to a BBC article on the subject.

    • Goodboy

      Not to mention inventor of the first computer.

    • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

      I presumed Turing’s “suicide” was really “murder”.

  • Blake Mason

    ‘I want an apology, not a pardon’

    • GanymedeRenard

      Exactly my thought.

  • William

    What’s the point of pardoning the dead? I don’t get it.

    • Randy503

      To set the record straight. It could also affect anyone who receives benefits who was married to a person deemed guilty.

      Also, it sends a message to the future — don’t pass laws that you might regret later.

      • William

        The original charges could be dropped and all convictions reversed.

        • coram nobis

          A pardon might not imply guilt, far from it (see article), while an amnesty might.

          • William

            Couldn’t the conviction be vacated? I know British law is different than US law.

          • coram nobis

            One by one, maybe. A mass overturn of convictions? By name?

    • Silver Badger

      15,000 are still living. Of course at that age, they might be considered pre-dead, but still, it’s a nice idea.

      • William

        Anyone still living should be fully exonerated and have their criminal record cleared of the crime.

  • Cuberly
  • This is good news.

  • BobSF_94117

    We accept too little. Thousands of men will not be pardoned because they were under 21 or their sex partners were. The number of cases involving real molestation or rape are probably vanishingly small and it wouldn’t take geniuses to sift through those cases to determine which did. Furthermore, justice requires pardoning the many EVEN IF a few guilty are included, not the other way ’round.

    And don’t get me started on reparations.

  • Ernest Endevor

    I wonder if this will include John Gielgud who was arrested and charged. He was rehearsing play and wanted to withdraw but friends and colleagues prevailed on him to stay. On opening night (in those days, plays opened on opening night) he was terrified to face the audience. But when he walked out on stage the house rose to cheer him.

  • BobSF_94117

    Turning himself would NOT have been pardoned under this proposal. His sex partner was 19.

    • JohnFS

      Hi Bob, according the Guardian link above, Turing has already been pardoned for this re a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Lord Sharkey. In any case the age of sexual consent in the UK is now 16 so sex with a 19 year old is now perfectly legal so it would be covered with this legislation, or have I missed something?.

      • BobSF_94117

        Perhaps I’m missing something. Accounts I’ve read have said that the govt and some members of Parliament are opposed to pardons in cases that involved underage sex. They haven’t been clear on what that means. I assumed they meant they would consider the age of consent for heterosexual sex at the time. That would still leave many men unpardoned.

        It’s still unjust. No consenting young man at the time had the hope that, one day, what he wanted to do would have been possible and legal. Why wait? For what? I don’t know how many of the cases involved two youths. Certainly, absent real evidence of lack of consent, those should be pardoned. If they’re using TODAY’s age of consent, much of my complaint is moot.

        But not all of it. There’s still something deeply offensive about the argument “but what if some real criminal slips through?”. We’re talking about a grave injustice perpetrated for centuries against tens of thousands. There are no plans to do anything of substance for these men, many of whose lives were ruined. Imagine how it would feel to be denied even this pardon, when you know you did nothing wrong?

        • JohnFS

          Agreed, none of this is perfect but I can’t see any government opening up what would be a can of worms for tens of thousands of compensation claims which would all have to be thoroughly investigated to examine the correct amount of compensation due. Also how do we compensate for claims where the person is dead. I think,this is the best we can conceivably get. I agree that the “real criminal slips through” bit is annoying and smells of a delaying tactic but it may be being aimed, as you mentioned above, at convictions where the sex was non-consensual, although I would have thought the charges brought at the time would have reflected this.

  • Kevin-in-Honolulu

    For those men and women who have died, what’s the fucking point about pardons?

    I understand the clearing of one’s name, but anything posthumous, especially when there was no offense in the first place, is so hollow.

    The damage has long been done to those persons, and just “wiping it all away” decades after the fact, does absolutely what, really?

    It’s almost the same BS mentality that the Mormon Church uses to “convert” people who have passed away.

    • CatCope

      Totally agree, Kevin. This “posthumous” stuff really burns me. While now, when one has passed away, they get pardons, awards, acknowledgment. It would be really Great if this was done when one was ALIVE!!
      Other than giving peace/solace to loved ones, families, friends, this sucks!!
      THIS shouldn’t happened in the FIRST place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • leastyebejudged

    Now compensate the survivors and their families for the livelihoods.

    Now round-up the scum that arrested these people and shoot them all in the face.

    Fuck their lame apologies and pardons, it means NOTHING to the people they MURDERED.

  • Tim Easton

    America someday too? Then, financial reparations.

    • leastyebejudged

      never. fucking. happen.

  • Sporkfighter

    This helps the dead not a bit.
    This is an example of why foot-dragging on civil rights is wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • JCF

    Just heard NPR story: this will include Oscar Wilde, too.

  • Spray on abs

    Won’t do much for the men who committed suicide after being convicted, but it is a good thing to do.

  • GanymedeRenard

    Granting “pardon”?? The British State should be asking for FORGIVENESS and offer monetary compensation to the victims, just like the Germans did!!