China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 but same-sex marriage remains illegal and recent years have seen a crackdown on LGBTQ activists and the wider gay community

Four decades after the decriminalization of homosexual acts, NSW Premier Chris Minns has delivered a formal apology to all those persons who were persecuted and experienced fear under the discriminatory laws.

"To those who survived these terrible years, and to those who never made it through, we are truly sorry. Everyone who lost a job, who lost their future, or who lost the love of family and friends. We are very sorry for every person, convicted or otherwise, who were made to live a smaller life because of these laws," Minns said in Parliament.

Minns said the NSW government apologized "for every life that was damaged or diminished or destroyed by these unjust laws."

Apologizing on behalf of the government, Minns said he regretted the Parliament's role in enacting laws that harmed people based on their sexuality and gender, and acknowledged the need to work more to ensure equal rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, ABC News reported.

With the amendment in 1984, NSW became the fifth state to decriminalize homosexuality. Till then homosexuality was considered an "abominable crime of buggery ... with mankind" under "Unnatural offences," attracting up to 14 years in jail.

Equality Australia chief executive, Anna Brown, said the exact number of those who were convicted was not known, but it could be "many thousands," The Guardian reported. "These laws created a climate of fear and prejudice that our community still grapples with in 2024," she said.

Minns was supported by Opposition Leader Mark Speakman who apologized for a law that called "gays and lesbians were lesser people." He added that the legal change signaled the "rightful removal of shame."

People who declared their sexuality were criminalized and convicted ranging from buggery to assault and gross indecency charges. Amendment in the NSW Criminal Records Act made in 2014 allowed persons who were convicted to get it quashed. But, till now very few have been able to do so.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, who is from the LGBTQIA+ community, hoped the government will follow up on its apology with action. Greenwich is awaiting approval on the "equality bill" that prohibits religious schools from firing LGBTQIA+ teachers and expelling gay students.

"I rise as the only openly gay member of the Legislative Assembly to contribute to this apology," he said in Parliament. "I am one of only two in this chamber's 186-year-old history. This in itself shows how much work we need to do."

Taking the opportunity to thank those who fought for the change, environment minister and leader of the government in the upper house, Penny Sharpe, said, "Decriminalization of homosexuality was a significant step that smashed through the wall of laws that allowed discrimination against gay men and the LGBTQ community."