The release of The Imitation Game has raised awareness of the tragedy of Alan Turning, the brilliant mathematician who helped the Allies win WWII, but later committed suicide after being found guilty of “gross indecency.”
Last year, Queen Elizabeth officially pardoned Turing, who had been sentenced to “chemical castration” and took his own life in 1954. But thousands of others still have black marks on their records.
“Should Alan Turing have been pardoned just because he was a genius,” asked out actor Stephen Fry at a recent screening of the Oscar-nominated film, “when somewhere between 50 to 70 thousand other men were imprisoned, chemically castrated, had their lives ruined or indeed committed suicide because of the laws under which Turing suffered?”
Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Turning in the film, added his voice to the discussion. In an email to the The Hollywood Reporter, he wrote, “Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but quite arguably persuaded to end his own life early, by a society who called him a criminal for simply seeking out the love he deserved, as all human beings do.”
Cumberbatch pointed out the hypocrisy of the UK “pardoning” him for something that should never have been a crime. “I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant forgiveness — theirs did — and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same.”
HRC recently published an endorsement calling for a pardon for anyone prosecuted under the UK’s “gross indecency” laws.
“Winston Churchill said Alan Turing ’made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.’ His crime was being gay,” wrote HRC President Chad Griffin in an open letter to the New York Times. “Over 49,000 other gay men and women were persecuted in England under the same law. Turing was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2013. The others were not. Honor this movie. Honor this man. And honor the movement to bring justice to the other 49,000.”
A Change.org petition has surfaced with a similar intent.
Pardon all 49,000 men, who like Alan Turing, were persecuted and criminalized under British law for “gross indecency” (section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, which was overturned in 1967), which prosecuted them for being gay.
Most of those men have passed away, but their families and legacies deserve justice.