Criminals no more: UK government pardons men convicted for being gay and bi

After over 600,000 people signed a GLAAD petition, the government of the United Kingdom has pardoned thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted under historical laws that criminalized people on the basis of sexual orientation.

The act, called the “Alan Turing law,” will clear about 49,000 people of crimes on the basis of sexual orientation, most of them posthumously. Alan Turing, who invented the first computer and helped turn World War II toward the Allies, was a gay man who was deemed a criminal because of his sexual orientation. Turing was later pardoned of the so-called “crime” and celebrated because of his significant contributions to society. He was pardoned of his “gross indecency” conviction in 2013, but others remained convicted under the law.

The Weinstein film The Imitation Game has helped millions of people around the world see the heroic actions of Alan Turing, as well as the harms of anti-gay laws. The film sparked a renewed interest in clearing the names of people who were wrongly convicted under such outdated laws.

“Stories like Alan Turing’s demonstrate both the contributions LGBTQ people make to society, and the persecution they sometimes face, even today. His story is also a haunting reminder of the terrible consequences a government can inflict on a marginalized group when it targets people because of bias and hate,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Justice has finally come to the 49,000 people whose lives and reputations were tarnished with these outdated laws, but the fight for justice and dignity continues.”

In November, Harvey Weinstein wrote, “Academy season is a time when great conversations are going to surface and positive messages will be spread. Movies this year like Fences, Hidden Figures, Loving, Moonlight and others all have incredible things to say. Giving those movies a microphone and a platform is a rather good means of generating awareness and starting conversations. Even though The Imitation Game is now in the rear-view mirror and we are three years removed from it being an awards contender, we are all still fighting to make that change.