Germany’s Cabinet approved a bill Wednesday that would quash the convictions of thousands of gay men under a historic law criminalizing homosexuality.
The vote also clears the way for those still alive who were convicted under the notorious Paragraph 175 to receive financial compensation from the government.
The anti-LGBT legislation was introduced in the 19th century, but was toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by West Germany, which persecuted some 50,000 men for sex crimes between 1949-1969.
Though same-sex acts were decriminalized in 1969, the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994.
The measure voted through by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet still requires parliamentary approval, which it is very likely to receive. It will provide compensation of around $3,200 for each conviction, plus $1,600 for every year of jail time a convicted man served.
“The rehabilitation of men who ended up in court purely because of their homosexuality is long overdue,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, according to WRAL. “They were persecuted, punished and ostracized by the German state just because of their love for men, because of their sexual identity.”
“The strength of a state of law is reflected in having the strength to correct its own mistakes,” he said. “We have not just the right but the obligation to act.”
In 2000, Germany’s parliament passed a resolution that apologized for Paragraph 175. Two years later, it erased the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule, but not any post-war convictions.
The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany “welcomes the fact that, after long decades of ignorance, legal consequences are being drawn from the serious mass human rights violations that were committed against homosexual people by the democratic state,” according to a spokesperson.
The planned compensation and rehabilitation will be automatic and won’t require any special applications, though people will have to apply if they want a formal certificate.
In addition to individual compensation, the government will also give an annual gift of 500,000 euros in funding to the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, named after the pioneering sex researcher and LGBT-rights activist.
In January, the British government announced the passage of “Turing’s Law,” which posthumously pardoned thousands of gay men convicted of sex crimes before the decriminilization of homosexuality in 1967.