ERG urges legal pardon for historical homosexual convictions
The Equality Rights Group has called for a legal pardon for people convicted of homosexual offences before these were decriminalised in Gibraltar in 1993.
The ERG is following developments in the UK, where Unite the Union has urged Home Secretary Amber Rudd to institute pardons for men convicted of homosexual offences in Britain before these were decriminalised by 50 years ago by the 1967 Sexual Offence Act.
The ERG has written to the Gibraltar Government and the local branch of Unite urging them to follow suit.
Last night the group said that while Unite had yet to respond to its request, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo had answered immediately and was “in full agreement”. It also claimed Justice Minister Neil Costa had “already issued instructions as necessary”.
In fact though, while the Gibraltar Government is sympathetic to the ERG’s request, the process will be complex and lengthy.
The instructions issued by Mr Costa were to establish how many convictions, if any, there had been in Gibraltar.
Court records prior to 1993 were largely on paper, meaning that tracing convictions will be a laborious and time-consuming process.
Not only that, the actual power to issue a pardon is vested in the Governor “acting after consultation with the Chief Minister”, not the Gibraltar Government.
But the ERG was clear yesterday that it would pursue its campaign and that it would assist with the research workload if allowed to.
“Gay men convicted of such offences prior to 1993 should be officially pardoned in Gibraltar, too, and their records and dignity restored,” the group said.
“Given the terrible shame surrounding such convictions at the time, only the Courts will have access to the cases of any such individuals.”
“Where requested, ERG will be happy to discreetly assist such individuals in the process.”
The statement added: “It’s unconscionable that gay men’s lives were in many cases destroyed, with dreadful consequences to their employment, families, social relations and psychological well-being as a result of discriminatory homophobic laws dating back to the mid-19th century.”
“Women, of course, were not affected by that legislation, since Victorian Gibraltar didn’t even contemplate that women were sexual at all.”
The ERG said that while Gibraltar had begun to change “attitudes of hate” toward the LGBT community, there was still more to do.
“In particular, ERG is alerted to a residual problem of homophobic bullying in school environments,” the group said.
“Government needs to continue the task of combating unacceptable attitudes and we have, in similar manner, contacted Minister for Education, John Cortes making enquiries.”
“Again, ERG is pleased to receive immediate responses from the Minister and his staff who have expressed their concern and determination to follow up bullying of whatever character in the school system.”
“We encourage and urge students and their families who are victims of bullying to never hesitate in bringing attention to incidents of physical or psychological bullying to their school authorities.”
“We need not remind the public that ERG is always willing to assist. Indeed, doing justice to both older and younger gay men in our community is certainly a healing move.”