Healing divisions: celebrating diversity

Gary Giles and Stuart Pekin

Apology from the WA Premier Mr Mark McGowan for past discriminatory laws against gay men and the introduction of the Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement Bill 2017

On the 1 November 2017, the WA State Premier,, Mr Mark McGowan, offered an official apology to gay men for past discriminatory laws. The Government also introduced its Historical Homosexual Convictions Expungement Bill 2017.

GRAI (GGLBTI Rights in Ageing Inc) warmly welcomes these actions, which are highly significant, both in practical and symbolic terms.

June Lowe, GRAI Chair said, “ Laws which criminalised homosexual acts effectively criminalised whole generations of gay men . These discriminatory laws therefore had a deleterious effect on all gay men, not just those who were convicted and charged.

“State sanctioned discrimination affected all aspects of gay men’s lives: having to be secretive for fear of losing work or housing, or potentially being rejected by ones friends or families, and many lived (aand some still do live) in fear of reprisals and endured the stress of internalised shame.

“Sadly, these discriminatory laws also negatively affected the heterosexual society, in that they reinforced uncompromising attitudes which marginalised gay men. Our society is still grappling with the residual effects of this mind – set: we are all made poorer by prejudice.

“For these reasons, the Premier’s apology and the introduction of the Expungement Bill has enormous healing potential, for all gay men and also for the wider community. Acknowledging that historical discriminatory laws were wrong and taking steps for reparation invites everyone to let go of past hurts and hurtful behaviours and work towards a society that celebrates diversity.

“Recent debates on marriage equality have demonstrated that there is still much work to be done before we can lay claim to being an unprejudiced country . The LGBTI community has struggled for decades for recognition as equal citizens and these progressive actions by the WA government are a tribute to their persistence.

“We unreservedly welcome the Premier’s apology and the expungement Bill. These are of great moment in the history of LGBTI rights, moving us closer to ensuring legal and cultural safety for everyone, irrespective of their sexuality or gender identity ”.