Petition For The Pardon Of 49,000 Prosecuted Gay Men Gains Huge Support, Backed By Benedict Cumberbatch

The star of The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch, has thrown his weight behind a petition calling for the U.K. government to pardon an estimated 49,000 gay men convicted of gross indecency under anti-gay laws — and his support has helped gain the campaign almost half a million signatures.

Cumberbatch has become synonymous with the campaign in recent months, having played the role of Alan Turing in the Oscar-nominated movie by Morten Tyldum. But, in raising the profile of the man who broke the Enigma Code, the plight of the remaining convicted men has become even more apparent, as reported by the Independent.

Alan Turing was a pioneer in the field of computer science, using his skills to help bring a swifter end to World War II and pave the way for generations of computer scientists to follow him. Despite this heroic reputation, however, he was convicted in 1952 of the crime of “gross indecency” because he was gay. Turing later had to choose between a term of imprisonment or chemical castration. While Turing opted for chemical castration, tens of thousands of other gay men were forced to make their own choices, leaving a permanent stain on their lives.

Turing died in 1954 — allegedly by his own hand — but was posthumously pardoned in 2013. The petition, created by Matthew Breen, asks that each of the other individuals convicted under the same law, including an estimated 15,000 that are still alive, be afforded the same justice.

According to Matthew Breen’s own article, featured on the Huffington Post, Benedict Cumberbatch brands the actions of the U.K. government to date “deplorable” and believes the time for addressing the issue is overdue.

“Alan Turing was not only prosecuted, but was 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. Sixty years later, that same government claimed to ‘forgive’ him by pardoning him. I find this deplorable, because Turing’s actions did not warrant ‘forgiveness’ – theirs did – and the 49,000 other prosecuted men deserve the same.”

Gaystar News reports that Matthew Breen has outlined the lasting impact these historic convictions continue to have.

“Each of these 49,000 men deserves the justice and acknowledgement from the British government that this intolerant law brought not only unwanted shame, but horrific physical and mental damage and lost years of wrongful imprisonment to these men.

“We have incredible momentum right now with the growing chorus of people worldwide calling on the British government to act. The perfect opportunity to right these wrongs is now, ahead of the one-year anniversary of marriage equality in the U.K. on 29th March.”

Attention was drawn to the petition when Benedict Cumberbatch signed an open letter, printed in the Guardian, calling for the official pardons. He has been joined in his support of the campaign by his Imitation Game cast and crew, including Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode, as well as other such high profile names as Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, and James Corden. Stephen Fry, who recently celebrated his own marriage, has also wielded his considerable influence in support of the campaign.

[Image: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images]