Nash secures Government backing for apology to men convicted under ‘draconian laws’
A Labour Party motion apologising to men who were convicted of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual acts prior to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in June 1993 has received government backing. The historic motion will be debated in the Dáil & Seanad next Tuesday evening, in advance of the 25th anniversary of decriminalisation on the 24th June 2018.
The motion, which arises from Senator Ged Nash’s ‘Convictions for Certain Sexual Offences (Apology and Exoneration) Bill 2016’ , has been agreed with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice & Equality, and it is hoped that it will receive the support of all members of both Houses.
Senator Nash said:
“This historic motion represents an important reckoning with our past. The State inherited draconian laws we applied over many decades to persecute and prosecute gay men merely for being who they were. It took until 1993 for Irish law makers to show the moral courage to banish these cruel, antiquated and inhumane laws from our statute books.
“Apart altogether from those who were convicted of offences that no longer exist, the chilling effect of having such harsh and discriminatory laws in place had a negative impact on progress towards equality for the LGBTI community.
“Incalculable harm and hurt was caused to countless thousands of citizens of this Republic who were deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity with themselves, their family and with society. This prevented citizens from engaging fully in civic and political life and deprived society of their full contribution. They were badly wronged by this country, and they and their families are owed an apology.
“I look forward to this powerful statement being made in both Houses of the Oireachtas next Tuesday and I am hopeful that support will be garnered from across the political spectrum.
“The Labour Party is continuing to work with government to identify ways in which convictions received by men for engaging in sexual activities which are no longer offences can be set aside or disregarded in a legally secure manner.
“As a country, we have made very significant progress on LGBT rights in recent years. However, we still have some way to go before we achieve full equality for LGBTI citizens in Ireland.
“This motion also represents an opportunity for the Oireachtas to unite to affirm that Ireland should be a country where all LGBTI citizens are free to fully express their identities without fear, prejudice or discrimination and that we put global LGBTI rights at the very centre of our foreign policy.”
Motion re: apology for persons convicted of consensual same-sex sexual acts and statement of values
That Dáil/Seanad Éireann:
– Acknowledges that the laws repealed in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 that criminalised consensual sexual activity between men-
– were improperly discriminatory, contrary to human dignity and an infringement of personal privacy and autonomy,
– caused multiple harms to those directly and indirectly affected, namely men who engaged in consensual same-sex activities and their families and friends,
– had a significant chilling effect on progress towards equality for the LGBTI community, acknowledging in particular the legacy of HIV/AIDS within the context of criminalisation;
– Further acknowledges the hurt and the harm caused to those who were deterred by those laws from being open and honest about their identity with their family and in society and that this prevented citizens from engaging in civil and political life and deprived society of their full contribution;
– Offers a sincere apology to individuals convicted of same-sex sexual activity which is now legal; and
– Welcomes the positive progressive measures introduced by successive governments over the last thirty years and in particular in the 25 years since decriminalisation was introduced by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, including inter alia
- the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989,
- the Equal Status Acts 2000-2016,
- the Employment (Equality) Acts 1998-2016,
- the Civil Partnerships & Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010,
- the Marriage Equality Referendum and the Marriage Act 2015,
- the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015,
- the Gender Recognition Act 2015;
And further welcomes the Government’s commitment to introduce an LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, followed by an LGBTI Strategy; and
– Reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that:
– the law fully recognises and protects sexual and gender minorities on an open and inclusive basis;
– Ireland is a country were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex individuals are free to fully express their identities without fear of discrimination;
– all citizens can live in freedom and equality, and participate fully in the social, economic and cultural life of the nation, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
– our foreign policy promotes and protects human rights globally, including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, who continue to suffer disproportionate levels of violence and face systemic discrimination in many countries.