Half a Loaf – Or Only a Nibble

Offered at the House of Commons

04-197208XX 03Speaking of anomalies and loopholes in legislation at a meeting called to consider the implications of the recent House of Lords’ decision in the International Times case, Bernard Levin said: “The only thing worth doing is to pass a small simple act… to improve the situation for some people… not to talk of ideal and perfect societies. Half a loaf is better than none”. Will Hamlyn, MP set up the meeting to discuss how parliamentary means could be used to improve the situation, but a GLF member commented: “All Mr. Levin is really offering us is a small nibble”.

Many of those present seemed to feel that traditional democratic processes could achieve very little, particularly, as Raymond Fletcher pointed out: “…it now seems to be the judges who make the law, not Parliament”. “I voted, as I thought, in the interests of a minority when I supported the 1967 act,” said Joan Lestor, MP, “and now I find that, under that act, such things as contact through advertisements can be made illegal.” The heart of the matter is section 8 of the 1967 Act, under which the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions is not required if the charge is incitement – incitement, in the case of contact ads, to commit acts which are not in themselves illegal if both parties are over 21. Leo Abse, MP, said at the time that he “was not happy” on this point: “Police use of incitement charges may well be open to criticism”. They were certainly criticised at the meeting, as was police activity in other areas, including harassment and spying in connection with cottaging, and selective prosecution under the obscenity laws.

The conspiracy laws were also criticised for their many loopholes – there have been contradictory decisions, some seeming to indicate that if a jury can be convinced by the prosecution that something is ‘immoral’, or a ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’, other relevant cases and precedents can be ignored. Bernard Levin said that it was a problem of singling out some actions and excluding them from the conspiracy laws, and that legislation should be attempted which would prevent such decisions as that in the IT case, and also define ‘conspiracy’ much more closely.

Does the present state of the law mean, for instance that a social worker who runs a group, or a counsellor who puts a homosexual client in touch with a gay organisation, is ‘inciting’ people to commit immoral acts? “Phew”, said Michael Butler of the Samaritans, when asked to comment later, “that would make the job of counselling gay people almost impossible. A psychiatrist told me that he could interview and analyse his patients, but if they had no social contacts with their own kind, his job was totally lop-sided and inadequate. The Samaritans’ general policy is that if someone wants social contacts and the counsellor feels it would be useful, the branch should have addresses of groups to which the client can be referred, and he would be given them.”

Other points raised during the meeting itself included the problem of judges who are “out of touch”, particularly with young people, and the general need for “public education”, considered in the long term, to produce a climate of opinion in which legislative improvements could be introduced by sympathetic members of parliament. The need for more control over police activity was stressed, particularly by Bernard Greaves, who quoted evidence of malpractices by Cambridge police, and by the editor of ‘Janus’, who was concerned about police victimisation of some publishers, while others were untouched

Some speakers were unsure that parliamentary action could really achieve anything of value, and felt that “the gay world is moving towards a violent stand, like that now happening in N. Ireland”, and that there was an increasing tendency for homosexuals to come together and not to rely on others to speak for them. “Gay people should live their lives openly, and that will help to change society at the grassroots”.

While some people present apparently endorsed this view, it was felt by others that in trying to improve the present situation, less ideal methods were essential, such as contact ads. and Denis Lemon of Gay News confirmed the paper’s intention to continue running ads. Antony Gray of NFHO said that in his view, advertisements were a comparatively ‘trivial’ issue, and that he felt that increased activity in parliament could really lead to improvements – By the law of averages, he calculated, there must be 30 gay MPs, so “Where are they?” Will Hamlyn, closing the meeting, felt that this might be an under-estimate, but that legislative improvements would, at best, be slow to come, and that there was a lot more to be achieved by individuals coming together and taking action at all levels.

Perhaps one comment on the meeting is “Never mind your half-a-loaf, Mr. Levin – we are going to make our own bread”.

I am Not a Woman

04-197208XX 03After a happy ending to a court appeal, a serving soldier, James Heath, aged 22, whose home is in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, now has to face a Court Martial for allegedly committing ‘unnatural practices’ with 27 year old Carlos D’Almeida. As the law stands at present it is still an offence for a member of H.M. Armed Forces to have anything but strict heterosexual relationships (thus explaining the Armed Forces encouragement of serving men to take full advantage of female prostitutes in the area in which they are stationed). These regulations are stringently enforced in the ranks, although many attachments between officers are generally tolerated if the parties involved are discreet enough about it.

The seemingly happy ending occurred at Aylesbury Crown Court where Carlos D’Almeida appealed successfully against a deportation order, recommended by High Wycombe magistrates on June 7, six months after he was refused entry to this country from Singapore.

The story really begins in Singapore in the June of last year, where James Heath was stationed with the Army. He was introduced to Carlos one evening as a woman and to continue in James’s own words: “We met in a discotheque, and during the evening Mr. D’Almeida told me: ‘I am sorry. I am not all I appear to be.’ I laughed, thinking that it was a normal woman’s reply meaning that she was not an easy pick-up. I was still laughing and then he said: ‘I am not a woman.’

In court James went on to say that they lived together for six months in Singapore, and this year he introduced Carlos to his parents as his fiancée. “We were hoping to get married,” he added.

According to the London Evening Standard, Carlos has now ‘won the chance to discover whether he is a man or a woman after a soldier revealed his affection for him.’ Unfortunately for the couple, the Army has now stepped in and their private lives face further interference and unhappiness because of James’s court martial.

The whole case is now sub judice and apparently The Sun newspaper is being sued by one of the parties involved. Knowing the treatment given to similar ‘delicate’ subjects by that paper, it is not surprising that this should be happening to them.

We of Gay News are not quite sure at this stage of the proceedings what possible help we might be able to give James and Carlos, but we certainly wish them well and hope that they will eventually have a lasting ‘happy ending’ together.

Constables in Leather

04-197208XX 03I thought you might be interested to hear of intense police harassment in this city. We have just got a new Chief Constable, who is reputed to have pledged himself to “clean up” the city.

Police are keeping an almost continuous watch on ‘gay’ toilets in Glasgow. They have young police constables in jeans and leather jackets ‘trolling’ around. After dark they have police hiding among the bushes in Maxwell Park. If two chaps as much as sit down on a park bench together they are questioned. If you park your car in certain places your number is taken.

As everyone knows this is a city which is notorious for crimes of violence, no doubt the police find it easier to persecute the persecuted, rather than doing their proper job of preventing the serious crimes, which take place all the time now. It’s no wonder that true criminals never get caught when the police are ‘not available’.

Preaching to the inverted

04-197208XX 03The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles (largest gay Christian group in the USA), will be in London for a week from September 20th. Dates include an open meeting on Friday September 22nd at Holborn Assembly Hall, 7.30 for 8.00pm (Small admission charge at door to cover cost of hall). Watch this space for further happenings, including plans to publish Troy’s autobiography in Britain: ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd And He Knows I’m Gay’.

“You’re no Trouble, it’s Just these Kids with Nothing To Do”

04-197208XX 03London Gay Lib’s last dance before the summer break was held at Fulham Town Hall on July 28. There were no arrests, no scenes in the street, and only one small incident inside the hall, when a small group of youths tried to walk in without tickets at about 10.45 pm.

Organisers and management staff reasoned with the ring-leaders, who seemed ready to back down, until one of them lost his temper and pushed a Gay Lib steward. A brief but vicious fight took place between this youth and a roadie from one of the groups, who seemed ready to use more force than the situation demanded. No gays were involved, and they were quickly separated.

The group of youths was escorted out by hall staff, and the management called the police, but this action was nothing to do with the dance organisers. “We wouldn’t call the police” said a GLF steward. “We don’t want anything to do with them.”

“You people are no trouble at all,” commented a member of the staff. “You just want to enjoy yourselves. It’s just these kids with nothing to do. They think they’re being big.”

Gay News asked if other dances attracted similar trouble. “Only the coloured people we used to have here. They had fights among themselves, which you don’t have, and the local yobs used to come round outside. Of course, we had to ban the coloured dances in the end. It would be a shame if that happened to you lot.”

The 300 gays at the dance on Friday would agree, especially as the music and atmosphere were considered by many “the best for a long time”.

Small groups of teenagers were hanging about on the corners and outside Fulham Broadway station at 11.30 pm, but were not to be seen when everyone left promptly at 12.00 pm. There was no trouble, although a panda car and a black maria were well in evidence.

The next dance is scheduled for September 1, at Fulham – let’s hope that the apparently improved situation will be maintained.