Law or Sexuality. Which Corrupts?
Do you believe that the 1967 Act solved everything? That it gave you the same rights as anyone else. Well, take very careful note of the words of one of their high and mighty lordships (Lord Reid) in deciding that IT was breaking the law in publishing gay personal ads. According to him, and therefore the law, there is “a material difference between merely exempting certain conduct from criminal penalties and making it lawful in the full sense.” In plain English, it’s legal, but then again, it isn’t. To the corrupt minds of their lordships, of the police, and of everyone else in a position of power over you life and mine, our homosexuality is a “vice”, a “perversion”, an “abnormality”.
It cannot be said too often that homosexuality, like any other sexuality, is about life, about people, about love, and not just about sexual practices. That human beings cannot be classified into “normal” and “abnormal”, they are simply different from one another. There is no such thing as “sexual normality”, but if “normality” means the sexual preference of the majority of the population, then it would not be heterosexuality, homosexuality or even bisexuality, but sexuality without a fixed direction. The unpleasant, impersonal things of gay life, like the cottages and sauna baths, the overpriced clubs and pubs are a result of the fear and shame specifically created by the law, because the law forbids us to meet freely as everyone else can, to advertise freely as everyone else can. To live openly and freely is our right, but the law denies this, depressing us into a less than full existence, treats us as less than human. If the way we live is depraved and corrupt (and I most strongly contend that it is not), then it is the law which is responsible for that and not our sexuality.
Which is more reprehensible – two people making love (or having sex together), or a whole organisation of people dedicated to isolating. punishing and discriminating against ordinary human beings became they make love? Which is depraved? Which is corrupt? Which harms others? Do we seek to keep any group of individuals down, to deny them less than their full rights as fellow human beings, to damage and control them because of their sexual preferences?
Look at the letters reprinted here – they are from organisations of gays working for our rights. Then consider what the law has said. It doesn’t take much to work out who cares about people, and who is depraved and corrupt
THE TIMES 19th June, 1972
HOMOSEXUALS AND THE LAW
From Mr Antony Grey and others
Sir, the undersigned are chairmen of organizations with a combined membership of over 5,000, representing the welfare of homosexual men and women throughout Britain. We have read with the gravest concern The Times’s report (June 15) of the House of Lords judgment in the case of Knullar (Publishing, Printing and Promotions) Ltd v Director of Public Prosecutions.
The effect of this would seem to be that homosexuals are prohibited from making contact with one another for non-criminal purposes through the public press – a freedom which is not denied, so far as we are aware to any other group of Her Majesty’s subjects. We deplore the House’s apparent judicial belief that homosexuals “corrupt” one another, and we are impelled to seek urgent Parliamentary action to clarify, and if necessary amend. Lord Reid’s dictum in relation to the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that there is “a material difference between merely exempting certain conduct from criminal penalties and making it lawful in the full sense”.
It was the clear wish of Parliament as expressed in that Act – supported, according to opinion polls, by two-thirds of the population – to relieve adult homosexuals of a criminal stigma which had brought much suffering to individuals and wastage to the community. Are we now to understand that this objective has been circumvented by the courts?
This seems a ludicrous and unintended outcome of reform. It is also lamentable that such old fashioned and ignorant views about the nature of homosexuality apparently still persist in high judicial quarters (eg Lord Hailsham’s quaint notion, expressed on television this week, that it is simply a “vice”). We think it is time for those who lay down the law to do some elementary psychological homework.
Chairman, National Federation of Homophile Organizations,
General Secretary, NFHO,
IAN C. DUNCAN,
Chairman, Scottish Minorities Group.
Chairman, New Group, Manchester.
Chairman, Campaign for Homosexual Equality,
SHARON M. MURRAY, North Eastern Women’s Group,
65 Shoot-up Hill, NW2
The Scotsman, 21st June, 1972
214 Clyde Street. Glasgow,
June 16, 1972.
Sir, – The decision by the House of Lords on Wednesday, 14th June, that the publishers of “It” had been rightly convicted on a charge of conspiring to corrupt public morals by inserting “gay” advertisements in the magazine, cannot be allowed to pass by without comment.
That conspiracy to corrupt public morals was a crime known to the law of England, was decided by the House of Lords in the “Ladies Directory Cae” in 1962. This decision adversely affected the defences provided by Section 2(4) of the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 where the essence of the offence was “tendency to deprave and corrupt” The Solicitor-General assured the House of Commons on 3rd June 1964 that “a conspiracy to corrupt public morals would not be charged so as to circumvent the statutory defence in Section 4,” but no effective action was ever taken by Parliament to draw the legal professions notice to this directive.
In the “It” case, it is important to remember that the prosecution made no point whatsoever that males under 21 would likely to reply to the advertisements.
The appellants argued that because homosexual acts between mades in private were now lawful by the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 (both parties being over 21), it could not therefore be the law that other persons were guilty of an offence if they merely put in touch two males who would, perhaps, indulge in perfectly lawful activity. This argument was dismissed by their Lordships, who, in a very narrow reading of the 1967 Act, said that if people chose to corrupt themselves in that way it was their affair and the law would not interfere, but no licence was given to others to encourage the practice.
The effect of this deliverance must be gloomy news indeed for all those who hoped for more understanding towards the many problems which millions of homosexual men and women have to face. How are like-minded men and women to meet in a lawful manner? No other minority group in Britain is today discriminated against in such a total way. The decision must adversely affect the gradual improvements being won by such organisations as the Scottish Minorities Group who over the past two or three years have been talking with the caring professions and encouraging new thinking towards counselling homosexuals. What now happens when a doctor, a clergyman, a social worker or a lawyer introduces two isolated men with the express aim of bringing about a happy and creative union? We are told that the law is being broken. It is a fallacy that homosexuals usually wish to meet for the purposes of having sexual intercourse. A principal aim of the SMG is to organise social occasions where homosexuals can meet, and thus banish the foul atmosphere of the public bath and the public lavatory.
And in doing just this, SMG has been highly successful. ls this useful activity now to be viewed with opprobrium?
Neither the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, nor the 1967 Sexual Offences Act apply to Scotland. However, we are assured that “in practice the law in enforced in Scotland in much the same way as it is in England” (Civil Liberty – The NCCL Guide, p. 293). The effect of the House of Lords’ decision is to throw