Britain just pardoned thousands of men once arrested for being gay

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The British government just posthumously pardoned thousands of gay and bisexual men who had once been convicted of now-outdated sexual offenses. 

According to the BBC, those still living with such convictions can apply to have them scrubbed from their records. 

The government announced this measure back in October, appealing to a legal precedent called Turing's Law established by the circumstances of Alan Turing, a British wartime codebreaker who committed suicide after being charged with "gross indecency" in 1952. The Queen eventually pardoned Turing in 2013, nearly 60 years after his death.

Alan Turing's notebook on display for auction in Hong KongSource: Kin Cheung/AP
Alan Turing's notebook on display for auction in Hong Kong  Kin Cheung/AP

In an op-ed for the Telegraph, writer Kaite Welsh called on people not to let news of the U.K.'s pardons to distract from what she called "decades of deliberate homophobia."

"We cannot afford to forget the oppression that shaped our culture," Welsh wrote. "Posthumous pardons, however well meant, aren't be a reason to sit down, play nicely and gloss over the past."

In many cases, the homophobic past Welsh speaks of wasn't so long ago — nor is it entirely in the past.

Consensual sex between two men was considered a criminal offense in parts of the U.K. as recently as 1982. What's more, it took until 2001 for the government to equalize the legal ages of consent for same-sex and heterosexual couples — the age for same-sex couples had previously been 21, as opposed to 16 for heterosexual couples.

Meanwhile, the United States still keeps some of its own anti-LGBTQ legislation on the books, with 12 states still observing anti-sodomy laws.

"Human history is ugly — littered with the bodies of the oppressed — and society is doing nowhere near enough to rectify the damage done," Welsh wrote. "LGBT leaders are rightly calling Turing's Law a step forward, but it doesn't let heterosexual oppression off the hook."