By Mandy Oaklander
January 31, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch has joined 40,000 others in signing an open letter to the British government demanding the pardons of thousands of gay men convicted under historic indecency laws in the U.K.

“The U.K.’s homophobic laws made the lives of generations of gay and bisexual men intolerable,” reads the letter published in the Guardian. “It is up to young leaders of today, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to acknowledge this mark on our history and not allow it to stand.”

Cumberbatch played Alan Turing in the Oscar-nominated movie The Imitation Game, which documents the code breaker’s struggles under the U.K.’s early 20th century anti-gay laws. In 1952, Turing was convicted of gross indecency — one of 49,000 men found guilty under the laws. He was chemically castrated and died by suicide two years later. Homosexual sex was outlawed in England and Wales until 1967.

MORE: The History Behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game

In 2013, Turing was pardoned by the Queen, but 15,000 of the men convicted are believed to still be alive. Cumberbatch — along with many others, some of whom were involved with the film — are demanding for their records to be wiped clean. “We call upon Her Majesty’s government to begin a discussion about the possibility of pardoning all the men, alive or deceased, who like Alan Turing were convicted,” the letter reads.

[The Guardian]

Write to Mandy Oaklander at mandy.oaklander@time.com.

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