Benedict Cumberbatch, along with 460,000 other people, have signed an open letter to the British government to demand the pardon of thousands of gay men who were convicted indecency under historical U.K. law.
“The U.K.’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable,” reads the letter . “It is up to young leaders of today, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand.”
Cumberbatch played Alan Turing in the Oscar-nominated movie The Imitation Game, a film which chronicles the life of Turing, who struggled with his own homosexuality, eventually being convicted of indecency in 1952 and sentenced to chemical castration. He later committed suicide at age 41, two years later.
Homosexual sex was outlawed in England and Wales until 1967. Turing was pardoned by the Queen in 2013, and received an “unequivocal apology” for his mistreatment in 2009, but there are approximately 15,000 remaining men who have not yet been pardoned who are still alive.
“We call upon Her Majesty’s government to begin a discussion about the possibility of pardoning all the men, alive or deceased, who like Alan Turing were convicted,” the letter reads.
Prince William and Kate Middleton have rejected the group’s request for support for the campaign.
“We heard William and Kate say this is a matter for government as opposed to something that the royal family should take up, and clearly, over the last 50 years there have only been four royal pardons that have been issued, so the fact that Alan Turing was granted a royal pardon on Christmas Eve of last year was rather unexpected,” producer Teddy Schwarzman told the Telegraph. “And yet, at the same time, it’s bittersweet for us and everybody involved with the film who has been supporting Alan Turing’s life and his achievements and his legacy, because a pardon just didn’t really feel as effective of a way to pay tribute to this man. There must be another way to honor him. So, [the petition] is our small effort to make sure he’s on parity with everyone else that suffered his same fate.”
In addition to Cumberbatch, British comedian Stephen Fry has signed the petition. Fry is openly gay and recently married his partner, Elliott Spencer. Other supporters include Imitation Game cast and crew members Keira Knightley and Morten Tyldum, celebrity supporters Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Bryan Cranston, Ryan Reynolds, and Michael Douglas, as well as members of turing’s family and other victims of the anti-gay laws.
“Alan was pardoned by the queen and the government but only in the last few years, and while it had to happen as a sort of official nod to what needed to be done, it was way too little, too late, obviously,” Cumberbatch said. “What we hope to gain is momentum with this [petition] to use his story to highlight that this was not just an isolated incident. [Turing] was utterly wronged by the very government and democracy and lives that he had helped save.”
Cumberbatch hopes that the petition will speed up the process and aid the thousands of people “whose lives were utterly altered, affected, changed, ruined,” by the laws to receive justice, woefully late as it may be.
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