Imagine being prosecuted for being in a relationship.

For many gay men in Tasmania in the 1980s and 1990s, a same-sex relationship meant prosecution and possible jail time, under laws prohibiting sexual relations between consenting men.

Now, in 2015, the Tasmanian Liberal Government has announced that it will take steps to officially apologise to those who were convicted and to expunge their criminal records.

Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminalise consensual sex between adult men in 1997, after a decade-long campaign involving Amnesty International, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the Federal Government and the High Court. In 2016, it will be the first state to officially apologise to those men and their families for the suffering that their laws caused.

Other states which have expunged records are South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT. However, none of these states have apologised to those who were convicted.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome welcomed the government’s decision to apologise and expunge the criminal records of those affected:

“For those men who were prosecuted in Tasmania for simply being in same-sex relationships it will be a great relief to be rid of the disadvantage and stigma that comes with an unfair criminal record." Croome said in a statement to the media.

"I am proud that Tasmania will be the first state to apologise to those arrested and their families because it will lift a burden from their shoulders and send the strongest message yet that Tasmania is a progressive and inclusive society."

The legislation required to expunge the historic criminal records will be introduced next year.

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