Rights groups including the LGBTI Legal Service, the Queensland AIDS Council and the Human Rights Law Centre have applauded the Queensland Government for today's apology to people convicted under unjust laws against homosexual acts.
Emile McPhee, Executive Director of the LGBTI Legal Service, welcomed Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s speech and said the apology recognises the harm that these discriminatory laws have caused.
"These laws have left a legacy of shame and stigma on our community for too long. It's well and truly time for this legacy to be completely erased from the criminal histories of persecuted gays and lesbians. We welcome this historic moment which brings us one important step closer to equality," said Mr McPhee.
The Government has also honoured its commitment to introduce a bill to erase criminal records for those convicted of homosexual offences in the past when consensual homosexual conduct was a crime. In Queensland, homosexuality was criminalised until 1990. Until then, men (and women) who engaged in consensual homosexual activity could be charged with any number of offences, ranging from indecency to ‘unnatural offences’ and sodomy.
Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, has successfully advocated for similar legislation and state apologies in other states and territories and welcomed the progress in Queensland.
“Sex between consenting adults should never have been criminalised. This apology from the Queensland Government is a powerful symbolic act that helps to repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and affirm the value of gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s sexuality,” said Ms Brown
Ms Brown added, “These laws had a profound impact on the everyday lives of gay men, lesbians and bisexual people and continue to limit work, travel and volunteering opportunities. By acknowledging the impact of these homophobic laws, the Premier pays respect to the victims of these laws but also to Queensland’s sexual and gender diverse communities.”
One man convicted under Queensland’s old laws and present for the apology was Alan Raabe. Alan Raabe was convicted of sexual assault in 1988 after he made an overture to a plain clothes police officer at a well know gay beat. Mr Raabe said, “This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to hundreds of Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices.”
“Being a criminal offence of a sexual nature, I had to abandon any hope of gaining teacher registration in Queensland. I had studied to gain a qualification, but was advised not to proceed with even an application for registration,” added Mr Raabe (Read more of Alan’s story here.)
Response from LGBTI community leaders
Alan’s story is representative of a number of gay men impacted by the history of criminalisation in Queensland, and the damaging legacy of discriminatory laws. Pete Black, Vice President of the Queensland AIDS Council said this was an historic moment for the state.
"The bill, together with the apology from the Premier, is a really important symbolic step for the LGBTIQ community in Queensland. This recognises that homosexuality should never have been against the law, and that gay men and women are entitled to the same rights and freedoms and privacy in their relationships as the rest of the community," said Mr Black.
"The Queensland AIDS Council saw first-hand the impact the criminalisation of homosexuality had in this state. These laws not only impacted upon the individuals convicted for consensual sexual activities, they also contributed to a political climate that sought to marginalise the LGBTIQ community. This made it even harder for the community and for QuAC to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic when it arrived on our shores. Sadly, many members of our community from this time are no longer with us today. But this reform is welcomed by their families, friends and loved ones and is an opportunity for us all to remember their lives and their loss,” added Mr Black.
Response from Alan Raabe in full
My first reaction upon hearing this most welcome news is to say a huge “Thank you”. There are two groups of people to whom I owe my thanks.
The first is to that amazing group of dedicated activists who work unacknowledged and quietly behind the scenes. They spend countless hours and enormous energy preparing copious submissions and reports, constantly lobbying politicians for equitable laws for our community. Despite repeated let downs and betrayal by bigoted, hypocritical and ill-informed politicians you never give up. I wish to specifically acknowledge the help and support of Emile McPhee and Anna Brown. Without your efforts none of this would have happened.
The second group of people I wish to thank is the current Palaszczuk government, and in particular the Attorney General Yvette D’Ath. This is the first Queensland government in 30 years which has had the decency to acknowledge the trauma and anguish caused to an estimated 500 Queenslanders by these convictions. They are the first Queensland government in 30 years with the courage to right these injustices. To you, I say a heartfelt “Thank you”.
Read Alan’s story here
The LGBTI Legal Service is continuing to look for stories like Alan’s. If you have a conviction you would like to discuss, please contact the LGBTI Legal Service. Read more here.
The Human Rights Law Centre also provides free legal help and support for individuals with historical convictions across Australia. Read more here.
For all media enquiries including interviews with Alan please contact:
Anna Brown, Director of legal Advocacy: 0422 235 522
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519
Emile McPhee, Executive Director, LGBTI Legal Service: 0438 766 176
Peter Black, Vice-President, Queensland AIDS Council: 0421 636 496