National News

Gay apology goes a long way in Tasmania

Human rights and community groups have welcomed an apology from Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman to people previously convicted under the state's historic and now-defunct anti-gay laws.

The Liberal leader on Thursday told parliament he supports legislative change to expunge convictions for acts once considered a criminal offence, including gay sex and cross-dressing.

In 1997, Tasmania was the last Australian jurisdiction to scrap anti-gay laws and Mr Hodgman said the time was right to move further forward.

"Laws criminalising consensual homosexual activity and cross-dressing were unfair and unjust," the premier said.

"We acknowledge that Tasmanians suffered as a result of these laws, which were repealed 20 years ago, and we apologise to those directly affected in this way, to their families and loved ones."

The words were echoed by leaders of the Labor opposition and state Greens.

Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Lee Carnie said the apology and expungement bill follows similar moves in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.

"This apology will help repair the harm caused by these unjust laws and moving forward sends a clear message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people that they are valued members of the community," she said.

Gay rights activist Rodney Croome congratulated Mr Hodgman on becoming the nation's first Liberal leader to offer such an apology.

"It will help heal the damage inflicted by by our old laws, including blackmail, ostracism, ignominy, hate crimes and even sometimes suicide," he said.

Up until 1997, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Tasmania were charged and convicted of offences ranging from sodomy and gross indecency to cross-dressing, with maximum penalties including up to 21 years in prison.

The subsequent life-long criminal record has affected job prospects, international travel and volunteering opportunities, the government noted.

"People should never have been charged or convicted ... even if it was thought at the time it was the right thing to do, it was not," Mr Hodgman said.

"We can't change the past, nor can we undo that harm. We can apologise for it and we do so."

© AAP 2017

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