Benedict Cumberbatch is calling for the UK government to pardon men who were prosecuted under a law of “gross indecency” that made being gay or bisexual a crime. But appeals for royal support from William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, appear to have been ignored.
Cumberbatch and other high-profile celebrity names such as Stephen Fry have signed an open letter asking for the pardon of 49,000 men who were prosecuted for being gay.
Members of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing’s family have also signed the letter. In The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch played Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and killed himself in 1954, before being pardoned in 2013.
The Queen’s posthumous pardon came four years after then Prime Minister Gordon Brown had offered an “unequivocal apology” for how he was treated.
Cumberbatch and the letter’s signatories have attempted to recruit the support of other young leaders including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to help with the campaign. However, a spokesman for William and Kate appeared to brush off the appeal, saying it was a matter for government and they would not make any public comment.
The letter describes Turing as “one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century… pivotal in the development of modern computers. The apology and pardon of Alan Turing are to be welcomed but it ignores over 49,000 men who were convicted under the same law, many of whom took their own lives. An estimated 15,000 men are believed to still be alive.”
Cumberbatch has been nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Turing. The Imitation Game’s director, Morten Tyldum, are joined as signatories by Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes.
Barnes told BBC News, “[W]e’ve always considered that it is totally unjust that only Alan was given a pardon. There were 50,000 other homosexuals who were convicted and not given a pardon. We would really like this to be put right now.”
Turing’s treatment included a requirement that he undergo chemical castration, harrowingly depicted by Cumberbatch towards the end of The Imitation Game. When officially pardoned in December 2013, a statement issued by the then-Justice Secretary Chris Grayling paid tribute to Turing.
“(He) deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war and his legacy to science.”
In addition to the letter signed by Cumberbatch, an online petition has been launched at www.Pardon49k.org, which has been signed more than 60,000 times so far.
[Image: Jack English / Black Bear Pictures]