British actors Benedict Cumberbatch and
Stephen Fry have joined in calling for pardons for the thousands of
men who, like Alan Turing, were persecuted by the British government
for being gay.
Turing, the subject of the
Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game, was a brilliant
mathematician who helped crack the German Enigma machine code, a
turning point for the Allies in World War II. After the war, he was
sentenced to two years of chemical castration under the British law
for “gross indecency,” which was overturned in 1967, for
acknowledging that he was gay.
In the film, Cumberbatch plays Turing,
who was pardoned by the queen last year after a vocal campaign.
The openly gay, recently
married Fry called for the pardons during a recent panel about
the film: “Should Alan Turing have been pardoned just because he
was a genius, when somewhere between 50 to 70 thousand other men
imprisoned, chemically castrated, had their lives ruined or indeed
committed suicide because of the laws under which Turing suffered?
There is a general feeling that perhaps if he should be pardoned,
then perhaps so should all of those men, whose names were ruined in
their lifetime, but who still have families … It was a nasty,
malicious and horrific law and one that allowed so much blackmail and
so much misery and so much distress. Turing stands as a figure
symbolic to his own age in the way that Oscar Wilde was, who suffered
under a more but similar one.”
In a statement to The
Hollywood Reporter, Cumberbatch echoed a similar sentiment.
“Alan Turing was not only prosecuted,
but 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. 60 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.”
On Sunday, Matthew Breen,
editor-in-chief of gay glossy The Advocate, posted a
change.org petition addressed to the British government.
“While these 49,000 men have all
since passed away, they deserve the justice and acknowledgment from
the British government that this intolerant law brought not only
unwarranted shame, but horrific physical and mental damage and lost
years of wrongful imprisonment to these men. Alan Turing was
pardoned in 2013, but the other 49,000 men deserve the same,” Breen