British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologized for the “appalling” way Alan Turing was treated for being gay.
Turing was a mathematician and computer genius who broke the codes used by German Enigma machines during World War II. In 1952, he was convicted under Britain’s “gross indecency” laws, which criminalized homosexuality. His sentence was chemical castration by a series of hormone injections, aimed at reducing his sex drive. He committed suicide two years later, at the age of 41.
“This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality, and long overdue,” wrote Brown in the UK Telegraph. “It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present. So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work, I am very proud to say: we’re sorry. You deserved so much better.
Brown’s apology followed an online petition which collected over 30,000 signatures. British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell says the Turing apology is “commendable,” but he demands a similar apology to the thousands of citizens who were prosecuted and jailed under the homophobic “gross indecency” law.
“It was the same law that was used to prosecute and jail Oscar Wilde in 1895,” says Tatchell. “First legislated in 1885 as part of a Victorian-era crackdown on homosexuality, this law was not finally repealed until 2003.”
The Turing apology comes amid a growing call for the Canadian government to apologize to gay veterans. Canada has allowed gays to serve openly in the military since 1992, but before that, gays were “discharged with ignominy.” NDP MP Peter Stoffer has called on the feds to apologize and to clear the records of those who were dishonourably discharged for being gay.