Men convicted of homosexual sex offences that no longer exist are to have their criminal records erased. As a result they will be able to apply for sensitive jobs or volunteer to work with children or in hospitals without having to disclose convictions.
The reform will apply to men who were convicted in 16,000 cases for offences including having consensual sex with another man over the age of 16 or for loitering with intent, the charge formerly brought against homosexuals looking for other men.
It follows other enhancements of gay rights, including the Coalition’s move to replace references to mothers and fathers on child passport applications with the option for gay couples to call themselves Parents 1 and 2.
Lib Dem Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has proposed that gay couples should be allowed the right to marriage rather than civil partnerships. Consensual sex between men over 21 was decriminalised in 1967. The age of consent was reduced to 18 in 1994 and 16 in 2000.
The move will also remove from police records convictions for buggery and gross indecency, crimes under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 until 2003.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, told The Times his group had lobbied hard for the historic convictions to be removed from the records.
'Not only were these convictions unfair but their presence on people's records has dissuaded many of those men from applying for jobs or volunteering their time to good causes,' he said.
Until now, men with historic convictions for buggery and gross indecency have been forced to disclose them when applying for jobs of volunteer roles in hospitals and with children.