The English government has taken steps to address a long-standing injustice common to both Great Britain and the United States: the conviction of thousands of citizens for being homosexuals. The new law of posthumous pardons is appropriately named the “Alan Turing law” after the genius who helped break the German code in World War II only to be hounded in peacetime by his country for his sexual orientation.
Turing was convicted homosexuality in 1952 and committed suicide in 1954.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in England and Wales in 1967. Scotland followed in 1980 and Northern Ireland did so in 1982. Notably, lesbian sex was never specifically outlawed, but sometimes prosecutors would use vice laws against lesbians. Tens of thousands of men may have been convicted under the laws according to John Sharkey, a member of the House of Lords who championed the pardon for Turing. That would include Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright who was convicted and sentenced to two years of hard labor in 1895 for sodomy.
In fairness to our English cousins, that was long before the United States Supreme Court declared such criminal laws to be unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.
The law would be long overdue and, while it hardly makes amends to these people with shattered lives, it represents an important public apology for the prosecution of people due to their sexual orientation. Turing has already been given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013. His moving story was the basis for the outstanding film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.