A petition calling on the government to pardon tens of thousands of men convicted under anti-gay UK laws has reached a milestone almost half a million signatures.
Spurred on by the recent portrayal of war-time codebreaker and gay man Alan Turing, played by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, 450,000 people have thrown their weight behind the campaign.
Turing, one of the 49,000 men convicted for gross indecency in days when homosexuality in the UK was illegal, was in 2013 given a royal pardon and offered an ‘unequivocal apology’ by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Now creator Matthew Breen’s petition has, in just weeks, created harnessed widespread support in calling for all other men convicted of consenting same-sex relationships to be absolved of their former ‘crimes’.
‘Each of these 49,000 men deserves the justice and acknowledgement from the British government that this intolerant law brought not only unwanted shame, but horrific physical and mental damage and lost years of wrongful imprisonment to these men,’ he said.
Men found guilty of ‘gross indecency’ because of their sexuality were persecuted by the government, and offered to choose either years in prison or chemical castration as punishment.
High-profile campaigners including Stephen Fry, Peter Tatchell, Jessica Alba, Matt Damon and James Cordon have all devoted their efforts to overturning these men’s historic convictions.
Breen this week called on the public to seize the momentum and force the government to officially pardon the men thousands of men.
Writing for the Huffington Post UK, he said: ‘We have incredible momentum right now with the growing chorus of people worldwide calling on the British government to act.
‘The perfect opportunity to right these wrongs is now, ahead of the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in the UK on 29 March.’
The petition is available here.