New South Wales becomes last Australian state to apologise for criminalising homosexuality

The premier of New South Wales (NSW) has formally apologised for the Australian state’s historical criminalisation of gay men.

Homosexuality was criminalised in Australia’s most populous state until 1984 and “dozens” of gay hate crimes were recorded, partly because of the hostility created during the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Now, Chris Minns has apologised for the “unforgivable pain” the legislation.

“We are here to apologise for every life that was damaged or diminished or destroyed by these unjust laws,” he told the state parliament, adding that the legislation should have “never existed“.

NSW is the last Australian state to apologise for gay sex acts being outlawed.

Victoria and South Australia apologised in 2016, while Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania followed suit in 2017.

‘Get out of our bedrooms, let us live our lives’

“For every person who experienced fear… everyone who lost a job, who lost their future, or who lost the love of family and friends, we are very sorry. We are very sorry for every person convicted, or otherwise, who [was] made to live a smaller life because of these laws,” Minns said.

“People who reached the end of their days without ever voicing who they really were, without ever experiencing the greatest of human joys – the joy of love – we are sorry.”

“As a state, we told you, you were wrong. But the truth is, you are never wrong. These laws were wrong.”

Thousands of men are estimated to have been convicted for buggery, assault and gross indecency. Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment. The apology comes 40 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW.

Others also spoke during the parliamentary session, including Alex Greenwich, who said that he was the only out gay man in the NSW legislative assembly, adding that “this in itself shows how much work we need to do.”

He went on to say: “My message to colleagues today will be the same message as the LGBTQ+ community had 40 years ago. ‘Get out of our bedrooms, get out of our pants and let us live our lives’.”

Men convicted of offences were only permitted to apply for them to be expunged in 2014 after a legislative change. Sex between women has never been a criminal offence in the state.

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