Scotland apologizes to gay men for historical convictions

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland's devolved government issued an apology on Tuesday to men convicted in the past for same-sex activity and passed a new law which will allow them to clear their names. "It is only right that we address this historic wrong," First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament. "Discriminatory laws, although abolished, continue to have implications for people to this day," she added. "The wrong has been committed by the state to them, not by the individuals." She added: "I categorically, unequivocally and wholeheartedly apologize for those laws and for the hurt and the harm they did to so many." Watching from the gallery, same-sex couples wept, held hands and applauded. Consensual homosexual acts between men aged over 21 in Scotland were decriminalized in 1981. "(The) apology will give a great deal of comfort to many who were unjustly prosecuted and will help draw a line, once and for all, under a dark period in Scotland's history," gay rights group Stonewall said in a statement. The legislation "acknowledges the wrongfulness and discriminatory effect of past convictions for certain historical sexual offences" by pardoning people convicted of those offences and providing a legal process for convictions to be disregarded. In January, the UK government passed a similar law relating to England and Wales. (Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; editing by Stephen Addison)