As most people in Crawley will know, I’ve been a lifelong labour supporter and sometime councillor.
So I’m proud that Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour government to offering posthumous pardons to gay men convicted under historic anti-homosexuality laws.
Anyone who has been down to the Leisure Park to see the film The Imitation Game will know about the incredible selflessness, dedication and patriotism displayed by the central character Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It was thanks to Turing and his work at Bletchley Park that Britain was able to crack the German Enigma machine which helped to win the war.
But in spite of this inestimable contribution, Turing was shamed, prosecuted and horrifically punished for being homosexual. Turing was convicted for “gross indecency” in 1952, after which he was chemically castrated. Two years later he committed suicide. The complete irony of course being that he was a key part of this country’s fight to overturn a regime that had just put over 100,000 gay men in prison and killed up to 15,000 in concentration camps.
I sometimes find it hard to believe that homosexuality was illegal in my lifetime. Thankfully it was decriminalised by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government in 1967.
Nothing can put right the wrongs that were done to people like Alan Turing but in making this commitment I believe Ed Miliband will honour their memory. The proposed legislation will be known as Turing’s Law – a fitting tribute to a great man I think.
But this change isn’t just about the past; it’s also about the future and recognising that the fight for equality is on-going.
For an old boy like me, it was wonderful in 2013 to see a Tory government pass a Bill to legalise gay marriage. It meant the ground had really shifted. Sadly, Crawley’s MP Henry Smith, voted against gay people having that equity before the law.
That’s why we must never be complacent – there will always be those amongst us who would deny some of our citizens equality.
Doug Mayne, Crawley