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‘The Imitation Game’ spurs petition to pardon 49,000 prosecuted gay men

“The Imitation Game” has prompted more than just awards and acclaim. In light of the buzz surrounding the movie, a petition to pardon 49,000 men convicted in Britain for being homosexual is picking up momentum.

The family of Alan Turing — the codebreaker whose story is at the heart of “The Imitation Game”, and who was one of those prosecuted for being gay — brought the petition to British Prime Minister David Cameron Monday morning. The petition attracted signatures from over half a million people, including the film’s stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Turing played a key role in cracking the German “Enigma” ciphers during World War II. It has been said that his team’s code-breaking work was responsible for shortening the war by as many as two years. Turing is widely considered to be the father of modern computer science.

In 1952, Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” with a 19-year-old man. He didn’t contest the charges, and ended up being chemically castrated. He died in an apparent suicide two years later.

It wasn’t until almost 60 years after his death, in 2013, that Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon.

Turing’s great-niece Rachel Barnes delivered the petition to 10 Downing Street along with her son, Thomas, and Turing’s great-nephew Neville Hunt. Barnes believes that Turing would have supported pardons for all those prosecuted.

“I consider it to be fair and just that everybody who was convicted under the Gross Indecency law is given a pardon,” Barnes said. “It is illogical that my great uncle has been the only one to be pardoned when so many were convicted of the same crime. I feel sure that Alan Turing would have also wanted justice for everybody.”

Watch tonight’s PBS NewsHour to learn more.


Correction: We have updated this post to reflect that Alan Turing’s posthumous pardon came nearly 60 years after his death, not 50 as we originally reported.

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