The 1967 Confidence Trick (1)

Law or Sexuality. Which Corrupts?

02-197206XX 2Do 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.

Yours faithfully.
ANTONY GREY,
Chairman, National Federation of Homophile Organizations,
MARJORIE BRYANTON,
General Secretary, NFHO,
TONY CROSS,
Chairman, Integroup.
IAN C. DUNCAN,
Chairman, Scottish Minorities Group.
BRENDA GODFREY,
Chairman, New Group, Manchester.
ALLAN HORSFALL,
Chairman, Campaign for Homosexual Equality,
SHARON M. MURRAY, North Eastern Women’s Group,
65 Shoot-up Hill, NW2
June 19.

The Scotsman, 21st June, 1972

PUBLIC MORALS

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

P.T.O.

The 1967 Confidence Trick (2)

02-197206XX 3(from page 3)

into doubt all the good work achieved by people who have no connection with obscene publications, but whose first desire is to create a caring and happy society. Fresh legislation is now imperative in the light of this recent development. – I am etc.
IAN C. DUNN, Chairman,
Scottish Minorities Group.

From The Evening Standard, 26th June, 1972.

 

NOW – A GAY PRIDE DEMO

Sir: Milton Shulman’s article ‘Dockers and Homosexuals’ accurately portrays the effects of the recent Appeals decision. Any ordinary person who has been involved in a trial cannot fail to be astounded at how out of touch with present reality most judges seem to be.

What the I.T. decision does is to put many persons, including myself, in peril of arrest, trial and umprisonment. On July 1, there will be a GayPride Demo in Trafalgar Square. The purpose of this clearly is to advocate homosexual practice for homosexuals and to protest against the continued oppression of homosexuals in our society, the 1967 Act notwithstanding. I, and other gay people will continue to defy this absurd law. To be arrested for advocating legal activity is something only a judge would appear not to find ludicrous. Let Parliament speedily remedy the situation or vote money to house a rapidly expanding prison population.

Warren Hague (address supplied)

 

The Guardian, 19th June, 1972

HOMOSEXUALS IN ISOLATION

Sir,
The law acknowledges the right of homosexuals to make love. By rejecting IT’s appeal, the House of Lords continues to support the law’s illogical refusal to allow homosexuals to meet. There an no circumstances under which they can meet. Not in the streets, which is importuning; not in properly conducted social clubs because none is allowed to exist.

Such repression encourages recourse to a few dubious pubs and furtive drinking clubs that cater for homosexuals; it encourages desperate efforts to make contact in public with the consequent risk of police prosecution. It encourages the growth of increasingly militant homosexual organisation. It throws and is throwing, an increasingly large burden on the Samaritans and other social service groups – the only people that the isolated homosexual knows he can turn to.

To use the Ladies Directory case (a list, I understand, of prostitutes) as a precedent for dealing with ordinary homosexual people is appalling enough. But their Lordships decision represents a major piece of discrimination against a section of the community that i,. numerically, larger than our coloured population. The House of Lords was dealing with one underground newspaper; their decision affects the very real needs of isolated people all over the country.
Yours faithfully,
ROGER BAKER
Flat F. 23 Great James Street
London WC1.

 

THE EVENING STANDARD
20th June, 1972.

GAY ADVERTISING

With regard to your news story (June 14) Lords in Clash on Gay Advert, I and the members of the Gay News, would like to point out that we will be carrying personal advertisements for gays of all sexes. We consider it the right of homosexuals to advertise in this way if they so wish, and can see no earthly reason why gays should not be able to do the same as heterosexuals. Hopefully, one day it will not be necessary for any people, no matter what their sexual preference, to advertise in this way. Until gays an free from the isolation imposed on them by society and people in general are released from the misguided taboos that surround sex and sexuality. Gay News will carry personal ads, no matter what the penalty.

Gay News is a national fortnightly paper for gay men and women and will he available this week. – DENNIS LEMON, Gay News, 19 London Street, W.2.

No Freedom to Love

“There is a sense in which all law is nothing more nor less than a gigantic confidence trick. Law is not enforceable at all if a sufficient number of people disregard it, and this is true of all laws.” Quinton Hogg

01-197205XX 8Laws which interfere with the individual’s sexuality and sexual expression will only continue to exist so long as we allow it- the will not be changed FOR us. Gay News intends to campaign for changes, since these matters are not, nor should they be, a realm in which legal controls belong. We welcome the stand taken by the Quakers in calling for the age of consent to be lowered to 14, but take the view that the law has no place in anyone’s sex life, and therefore the best sex laws are no sex laws at all: that would make us all equal, and leave no room for the suppression of any minority.

If you are a gay man, you cannot legally have sex before your 21st birthday, but if you’re a gay woman, or a heterosexual you can do so as soon as you are 16. The law is intended to prevent adolescent boys from being seduced by older men. They are apparently trusted not to succumb to a woman of any age against their own will, or if they do, it’s only a private misdemenour, not a criminal offence. It presumes that he couldn’t say no. But they can be prosecuted for seducing one another. Confused yet?

…Obscenity laws exist to repress normal sexual desires which are somehow, in law, equated with depravity. N.C.C.L. Guide to Civil Liberty

The law reflects the traditional male attitude to gay men – on the surface, we are despised, within, we are feared. Because within themselves they see us – their own heavily controlled love and desire for their own sex – and they fear.

The 1967 Act does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland – the law remains as it was in both these areas.

Sexual Offences Act 1956: section 32: “It is an offence for a man persistently to solicit or importune in a public place for immoral purposes.”

When the act was passed, this section

And remember… “Law is not enforceable at all if a sufficient number of people disregard it, and this is true of all laws.”

MEANT a man pimping for a woman. The law is almost never used in that sense, but to stop you picking up a guy you fancy whenever and wherever you may see him. It is never used to stop a man picking up a woman, even if he is offering her money for her services. She is in the wrong then.

Maximum penalties for some acts committed by older men with minors were increased by the 1967 Act.

Policemen can close down our pubs and clubs, and raid our parties more or less at will, if we are not behaving like heterosexuals. Because they have a duty to “preserve the peace”. Or if the backhander from the owner isn’t enough.

Publication of advertisements for the encouraging of homosexual practises is at present an offence, depending on the outcome of the It appeal currently being heard by the House of Lords.

It doesn’t matter if you are all over 21 and consenting, if there are more than two of you, it’s illegal.

In short, you can’t pick up anyone except in a pub or club or party, but the police can still raid these at will. You can’t take a man under 21 to bed, and if you’re under 21, you just can’t, that’s all. You can’t place lonely-heart ads.

BUT… Gay News WILL carry small ads for as long as you wish to use them. It must surely be an individuals human right to choose the way he or she wishes to make contact.

BUT… Gay News feels that far too little is being done to campaign for the age of consent to be lowered to the logical level, 16, giving us parity with everybody else. It should only be a matter of time before the whole question of legally enforceable age of consent for anyone comes under review.

Since the Sexual Offences Act 1967 very little positive action has been taken to remove this obsolete law from the statute books. We hear that S.M.G. is still squabbling about what particular age limit to campaign for; it’s a nice discussion point in C.H.E. and as Warren Haig says in OZ 42, “If Gay Lib had a concern for all homosexuals it would actively campaign for this… but it doesn’t.”

If you are being persecuted in any way for being yourself, we are here to try to do something about it. Tell us and let’s try together.

Gay News WILL campaign for this reduction. But, more important still, we’d like to make our columns available to anyone involved in campaigning against this particular black mark on the statute book.