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State says sorry for LGBTIQ+ laws

Written by on May 11, 2024

The NSW parliament will apologise to people discriminated against by laws which criminalised homosexuality.

Just 40 years ago the NSW parliament amended the Crimes Act 1900 to decriminalise homosexuality.

One of the many law changes removed reference to anal sex between people from the bestiality section of the Crimes Act.

“Omit ‘Whosoever commits the abominable crime of buggery, or bestiality, with mankind, or with animal, shall’ insert instead ‘Any person who commits an act of bestiality with any animal shall’,” the 1984 amendment reads.

Before the law change sexual contact between people of this nature made a person “liable to penal servitude for fourteen years”.

Equality Australia says the laws created fear and prejudice that lingers today.

The formal apology will be delivered in parliament in June, to mark 40 years since the law change came into effect.

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, Penny Sharpe, said people suffered because of the criminalisation of homosexuality.

“A formal apology to those who suffered at the hands of the law that criminalised homosexuality recognises the harm done to many and acknowledges that it was wrong.

“Decriminalisation of homosexuality was a significant step that smashed through the wall of laws that allowed discrimination against gay men and the LGBTQ community,” Ms Sharpe said.

“We recognise the trauma people of diverse sexualities have endured, and continue to live with, because of past decisions that criminalised and persecuted them based on their sexuality.”

NSW is the last state to issue an apology, after Victoria and South Australia said sorry in 2016, followed by Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania in 2017.

Premier Chris Minns said an apology did not fix the past.

“I know that to many this apology will not remedy discrimination of the past, but I hope that it brings some semblance of closure to those that were unfairly targeted by laws of the day that criminalised gay and lesbian people for being who they are.”

In 2018 the Liberal–National Coalition government oversaw a non-binding, $80m postal survey asking “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

NSW returned the largest ‘No’ vote but more than 61 per cent of Australians said yes, and the commonwealth Marriage Act was changed.

Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown said NSW’s apology next month was symbolic.

“An apology in parliament will be a powerful symbolic act that will go some way to healing the pain and harm caused by these unjust laws, but it must also deal with the present and be backed by action,” Ms Brown said.

“These unjust criminal laws created a climate of fear and prejudice that, 40 years on, our community still grapples with today and sadly our laws continue to entrench discrimination that casts a shadow over the lives of LGBTIQ+ people.”

Conversion practices were recently banned in NSW, and legislation was before the parliament to “close carve-outs that allow religious schools and organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people”, Ms Brown said.

“As NSW comes to grips with this painful chapter in our history there is no better time for the government to catch-up with the rest of Australia and remove the remaining discrimination under our laws, so everyone is protected and treated fairly.”