New South Wales premier apologizes for laws criminalizing homosexuality News
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New South Wales premier apologizes for laws criminalizing homosexuality

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns formally apologized in Parliament House on Thursday to all those convicted or affected by laws that criminalized homosexuality, which was decriminalized 40 years ago.

New South Wales is the last Australian state to apologize for these laws. Victoria and South Australia apologized in 2016, followed by the other three states in 2017. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia in 2017. Homosexual acts between adult men were criminalized in the 1980s, with fear and hostility present amid the AIDS epidemic. Although sex between women was never a criminal offense, the fear was equally as present.

Premier Minns apologized on behalf of the New South Wales government and parliament for the harm caused by these unjust laws, acknowledging the lives damaged, diminished, or destroyed by them. He stated, “to those who survived these terrible years and to those who never made it through, we are truly sorry.”

Minns shared the story of Peter Bonsall-Boone, known as “Bonne,” who made history in 1972 by becoming the first man in Australia to share a same-sex kiss on national television. Bonne was arrested by the state and his conviction lead to his expulsion from the Anglican Seminary where he was studying to be a priest. The repercussions of Bonne’s conviction followed him throughout life until his death. He was unable to work as a public servant, serve on a jury or be a Justice of the Peace. He had difficulty in securing a home loan with his partner, was denied work as a taxi driver and faced scrutiny when he volunteered to teach English to immigrants. His partner, Peter de Waal, campaigned for the state to issue a formal apology for decades. 

New South Wales Premier Minns noted that Bonne passed away 7 years ago but before his death was notified of the expungement of these historical convictions.

Bonne passed away 7 years ago, but even at the end of his life, fifty years after the arrest it still weighed on him. In 2014, when this parliament passed a law allowing for the expungement of these historical convictions it meant a great deal for people like Bonne. Just weeks, before he died, Bonne received that official letter notifying him that his criminal record had been extinguished. Peter read those words out to him and said it was the final time he had ever smiled.

Independent Sydney Member of Parliament, Alex Greenwich, is the only openly gay member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He is advocating for the government to follow this apology with action. Greenwich has proposed an “equality bill” which will prohibit religious schools from firing LGBTQ+ teachers and prevent students from being expelled for coming out as gay. The bill, which has passed the committee review stage, would also allow transgender people to register a change of sex without undergoing a gender affirmation procedure.