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‘Oldest gay in the village’ confident an apology is coming for historical gay sex convictions

‘Oldest gay in the village’ George Montague was left speechless after being praised by Jeremy Corbyn at a PinkNews Parliamentary reception.
Mr Montague, 94, was convicted in 1974 of gross indecency with a man, and has fought ever since for an apology.

The government pardoned thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted under historical anti-gay laws earlier this year, but Mr Montague argued they should receive a full apology for his treatment.
Thousands previously signed Mr Montague’s petition asking for “an apology before I die”, which he  delivered to Downing Street with his husband, Somchai Pukklai.
Mr Montague attended the PinkNews Parliamentary reception in Speaker’s House this evening, where he was praised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Commons Speaker John Bercow.

Speaking at the event, Mr Montague departed from his planned speech campaigning for an apology – saying he was now so assured one would come that he need not bother.
Mr Montague said: “I’m so honoured. I’m almost speechless.

“I had my speech prepared, but two days ago it had to change! I heard that New Zealand and New South Wales have given the full apology to the whole of their gay community. My speech was going to bully our government into doing the same for us, but I don’t think I need to bother. I think we’re going to get it.
“I hope before the next three weeks, when I shall appear for the ninth time at the best Pride in the land – Brighton Pride – I am very confident that we shall get it. My banner was going to say ‘come on, let’s have this apology’. It’s now going to have a big, bold ‘thank you’. And thank you all very much.”
In his speech, Mr Corbyn had pressed the government for a full apology.
He praised Mr Montague, saying: “I want to pay tribute to George Montague, who suffered awful discrimination, but used his experience for the benefit of others. Well done George on your fight, your campaign, and ultimately your victory.”
Speaking to Mr Montague at the event, the Labour leader hailed him as an “idol”.
Mr Montague added: “This is the best day of my life.”
A junior government minister has previously attempted to apologise for historical convictions prior to 1967 in Parliament
Campaigners hope the Prime Minister or a Secretary of State will use the 50th anniversary this month to more formally lay out an apology, including to those persecuted in the years since partial decriminalisation.
Mr Montague has been fighting to receive an apology for a conviction for gross indecency back in the 1970s.
The 94-year-old, who has led Brighton’s Pride celebrations in recent years, was arrested in a public toilet for gross indecency for being on what he calls the “queer list”.
Mr Montague says that his conviction wasn’t one of 113 which have been disregarded or pardoned.
He says there were 15,000 people convicted who should have received an apology.
A More4 documentary makers says they uncovered the secret of the lack of an apology using a Freedom of Information Enquiry to the Home Office.
In the programme, Mr Montague says: “What’s the point of giving a pardon when someone wasn’t guilty in the first place? What were they guilty of? Only being born only able to love and be in love with another man. The law is what was wrong, and therefore it needs an overall genuine apology.”
Mr Montague realised he was gay in his twenties – long before the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Like many of his friends at the time Mr Montague married his wife, Vera, at the age of 37, and the couple had three children.
They were together for more than 20 years.
“I was always convinced my wife knew I was gay when she married me but it wasn’t discussed”, he said.
“She could have divorced me, she could have taken me to the cleaners but she didn’t.”
Former Prime Minister David Cameron also praised the campaigner for his LGBT advocacy in a letter.
David Cameron wrote: “I understand that you have been involved in Gay Pride events for some years, and were at Pride in London this year, as well as being elected an Ambassador for Brighton Pride 2013.

“Let me congratulate you for this, and your involvement in charity fundraising. Your commitment to the community is very impressive.”
The reception marked the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The PinkNews Awards is generously supported by Lloyds Banking Group.

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