Turing’s law, named after World War II code-breaking hero Alan Turing who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man, officially came into force on Tuesday.
Announcing the new law, the Ministry of Justice said the pardons apply automatically to deceased men who were convicted for consensual same-sex relations before homosexuality was decriminalised several decades ago.
Men living with convictions can apply to the government to have their names cleared.
“This is a truly momentous day. We can never undo the hurt caused, but we have apologised and taken action to right these wrongs,” Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said.
Calls for a general pardon have noted the 1954 suicide of Turing, the father of modern computing, after his conviction for “gross indecency.”
After he received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013, pressure for pardons intensified.
Turing, a computer science pioneer, helped crack Nazi Germany’s secret codes by creating the “Turing bombe,” a forerunner of modern computers. His work helped shorten World War II, and he was an innovator of artificial intelligence.
Following the war, Turing was prosecuted for having sex with a man, stripped of his security clearance and forcibly treated with female hormones. He died at age 41 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing in the 2014 movie The Imitation Game about the mathematician’s life.
What is now known as “Turing’s Law” had been a longstanding government commitment, Minister Gyimah said. It is part of the Policing and Crime Bill which received royal approval on Tuesday.
The news comes as the White House announced US President Donald Trump won’t roll back federal protections for LGBTQ workers, giving a rare nod of approval to President Barack Obama’s work on the issue.