Editorial

At first sight this news story isn’t particularly relevant. But we think that it’s important. A labourer from Rugby has been found guilty of a serious offence against a girl. At Birmingham Crown Court he was put on probation for three years.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter. His employers didn’t approve of his conduct and promptly sacked him.

The man, who was not willing to go without a fight, complained to the Industrial Tribunal in Birmingham. The tribunal said that his firm must re-employ the man. They refused.

At a meeting of the same tribunal held in November, the company’s spokesman justified its action in these terms: “The company expects high standards from its employees. It will not today, tomorrow, or next year, employ a man who has been convicted of this offence, rape, or any offence involving moral turpitude.”

The tribunal rejected his defence. The man was awarded £2,053 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

The relevance of this industrial tribunal case to the majority of gays is that it supports them in any claim they might make against wrongful dismissal.

It means that gays should no longer fear being sacked for their sexuality. And for that matter, people should no longer try to stop people learning just who they are. There are far more gays who feel they have to repress their sexuality for fear of losing their jobs than there are gays who actually get sacked.

Time For Action

The time has come — and gone perhaps – when gay people start demanding their human rights. The charge of “moral turpitude” is one that many companies could use to get rid of gays they no longer wish to employ.

Our private lives are private lives and it really is time that gays demanded the right to lead private lives. It’s time we demanded the right to be treated with true equality – that is, for gays to no longer have to fear for their jobs.

In this field women have just been refused the right to be treated as men’s equals by a male MP “talking out” the Women’s Rights Bill in Parliament.

The gay male suffers the inequality that women suffer and more. There is still a very heavy weight of public opnion ready to condemn the male homosexual.

Parallel Struggles

The women’s struggle for human rights is parallel to the gay struggle.

Recently women supporting the Bill which demands very basic human rights have staged a demonstration both outside and inside Parliament.

It is this sort of action that gets things done. Ultimately Mr Maddon, the MP for Hove will have to sit down and shut up while women get what’s been due to them for centuries.

It’s been a long time since we saw any action of this sort by gays for gay civil rights, so it’s hardly surprising that many in Parliament and elsewhere think that we gays are satisfied with being society’s second-class citizens.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act offers male gays legality-within-limits. It’s not enough. It offers no protection. It is a feeble law.

Ask Your MP

One way each gay could make his/her feelings known to his/her MP is to write to the MP and ask:

(1) Are you anti-gay? If so, why?

(2) Would you support any new legislation that would give full human rights to gays in all parts of Britain. If so, why haven’t you done anything about it?

(3) Have you ever realised that one in ten of your constituents is gay? This is why you should take up the struggle for gay rights for us. As an MP you are supposed to represent the wishes of your constituents.

Remember whatever you say should be treated in confidence by your MP. Remember also that unless we take some direct action now, the time will just go on passing, and we’ll still be second-class citizens.

Heartening Signs

It is heartening to see that an industrial tribunal will not listen to excuses for sacking on the grounds of “moral turpitude”. Perhaps we are approaching the emergence of a slightly saner attitude to sexualities. But it does not mean that we have reached anything to be proud of, or even to rest at.

There are many people who, seeing that Parliament has become too divorced from the people it’s supposed to represent, have little faith in the established channels of change.

It’s true that Parliament, which, by definition, is a place for discussion by all the people, has become the legislating arm of the executive – the Government – rubber-stamping plans to freeze pay or prices, etc.

But there’s no reason to suppose that it’s got to stay like that.

Roads To Freedom

Undoubtedly, Parliament is increasingly irrelevant to the individual members of society. But to change that will take several decades – without any increase in gays’ rights.

Therefore the roads to freedom that are open to us now are:

(1) Through Parliament by making the gay voice heard – through contacting your MP;

(2) By other means outside Parliament, whatever it is – demonstration or whatever form you choose your protest to take.

The most important thing now is that we should do something: there hasn’t been a big gay rights demonstration for almost two years!

If you want freedom, decide what path your protest is going to take and then do it!

No Recognition At Queen’s

BELFAST: Students lobbying for law reform to make gay sex legal in Northern Ireland have been denied official recognition by Queen’s University Academic Council, because of possible legal repercussions.

The Gay Liberation Society which has been active on the university campus for the last year, exists to fight social prejudice against homosexuals and to lobby for a change in the laws of 1885 and 1861, which still apply in the province, as the 1967 Sexual Offences Act applied only to England and Wales.

Equality With England

The Gay Liberation Society wants equality with English gays. It points out that the law in its present state in Northern Ireland – and Scotland for that matter – exposed homosexuals to blackmail and legal harrassment for actions which were their own affair.

The university’s academic council turned the society’s plea for official recognition down flat and said the society would have to get legal advice before reapplying for recognition.

Meanwhile the society was going ahead with its plans to stage a ‘gay play’ at the university.

The play, Find Your Own Way Home, by television playwright John Hopkins, was to be staged jointly by the Gay Liberation Society and the university’s dramatic society.

Belfast’s Sunday News called it “the most sexually explicit (play) ever to be staged in the Province.”

Deep Blue Air

The play deals with the break-up of a marriage when the husband leaves to live with his gay lover.

The Sunday News confided: “Its language turns the air a very deep blue…

“But director Gwen Williams, a graduate in English, is not worried about possible protests.

“The play is a serious exploration of homosexual relationships,” she said, “and though the language is very strong, I think it’s justified.

“It was obviously written to combat prejudice against homosexuals, hence the cooperation of Gay Lib. Homosexuals are still hampered in Ulster by outdated social attitudes and by legislation, but I think Ulster people are mature enough to take this type of play, If protesters try to stop the production we shall make it into a club performance.”

Enthusiastic About Role

Arts student Andrew Hinds plays the husband’s lover, Julian, and he’s enthusiastic about this role, during which he has his shirt ripped off him by another of the play’s gay characters.

In one scene he describes his casual sex encounters in parks and cottages using what the Sunday News was moved to call ‘X certificate terms’.

Andrew said: “In the play, the husband leaves his wife, Jackie, for me. She thinks he’s left her for another woman when she finds letters to him signed ‘Julie’. It is only when she meets me that she realises that ‘Julie’ is, in fact a man called Julian. When that strikes home she is physically sick on stage.

But Andrew does not object to the ‘bad language’ in the play. “It’s about time this kind of language, which all young people use, got on to the stage; and realism would have suffered if it had been omitted.

Here We Are Again

In GN15 we said that there had been a decline in the amount of correspondence we were receiving from you. This is no longer the case, as your letters are once again coming in fast and furious. Keep them rolling in. We consider the Your Letters column to be a particularly important part of the paper, as it gives you a chance to air your opinions and communicate your ideas to the paper’s readership — the largest of any gay paper or magazine currently publishing in this country.

Safety In Anonymity

Whilst on the subject of letters, we cannot help but notice how only a minority of you are willing to have your names published with your correspondence. It is of course up to you whether or not your name appears in print, but we see the reason why a large majority of you prefer to remain anonymous, apart from just Christian names, or to use a pseudonym as a good example of the pressures homosexuals are still subjected to or subject themselves to. And remember, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act supposedly removed the threat of blackmail and the unjustifiable harrassment of homosexuals.

Many gays claim that there is no discrimination or prejudice against them, but if that is true, why are so many people reluctant to have their names appear at the bottom of their letters. It is not up to us to preach or moralise about whether you should or not, but we do have opinions like anyone else, and the impression we get is that people are still generally wary of the society they are part of, and as a result choose to hide behind a safe but passive cloak of anonymity.

Isn’t one answer to this problem to work hard for a Sexual Discrimination Bill to be introduced into Parliament, similar to the Race Relations Act. We would very much like to hear from you on these last two points, as the former affects you far more than us.

A Voice From The Right

In our last issue a reader suggested in the letters column that we should give Martin Stafford (the notorious reactionary executive committee member of CHE) a chance to express his right wing views.

We welcome this suggestion, as the pages of GN will always be open to all forms of opinion, whether they be right, left, liberal or otherwise. We believe it is the only fair way of allowing everyone to have their say, without one particular viewpoint dominating our pages. It is likely we will often disagree with what contributors are saying, but it is not up to us to suppress ideas and convictions, even unpopular ones. The readers of GN will make up their own minds, from the arguments presented to them.

As Mr Stafford’s action concerning Gay News has been of a rather negative nature in the past, we hope that this may stir him to put pen to paper and communicate on a more positive level, which, incidentally, we feel he is capable of if given the chance. The ball is in your court, Mr Stafford.

Trouble In The South

We apologise to readers in the Portsmouth/ Southampton area who may be experiencing some difficulty in obtaining our recent issues. A number of outlets are no longer willing to handle the paper, and are not prepared to say why, despite the fact that most of them sold all the copies of GN delivered to them.

On information received from usually reliable sources, we have learnt that pressure has been put on these retail outlets by a person well known in that area, who has considerable interests in a gay advertising pamphlet that is circulated around the country. It is depressing to find out that someone whose only concern is the exploitation of the ‘gay market’ feels it necessary to interfere with the distribution of a newspaper whose primary interest is not a commercial one and whose aim is to try and be a valuable contribution to society.

For legal reasons we cannot at this stage name the party involved, but we warn them that GN will not tolerate their recent actions, nor, we believe, will our readership, especially as the only thought of that party is to fatten their bank balance at the expense of the gay community. Wilful exploitation of gays by the worst forms of commercialism, must become a thing of the past, and if it will help to expose shoddy enterprises for what they are, we will do so.

If you are one of the people who now find it a problem to buy gay News, please support us by taking out a subscription or else insisting to the managers/owners of places that used to handle GN that they recommence stocking it.

Bad Debtors

Exploitation of gays has been with us for some time, and the situation we have just mentioned is one example. Another form this takes, which we are personally experiencing, is the way in which certain people are willing to sell Gay News, but are reluctant to pay us for copies they have sold. A one-time prominent London member of the largest gay organisation in Britain, is at this time witholding payment. And he is not alone. If those people cannot meet their responsibilities very soon we shall have no alternative but to publish a list of bad debtors. As many of you know the future of the paper has been on shaky ground during the past few weeks, when the gathering of funds has been of prime importance. Is it right then that a few individuals should make a personal profit by abusing the trust placed in them. A difficult problem but one which must be solved for the good of all of us.

A New Location

If all goes well in the next month, we should be moving to new premises, which are considerably larger than our present ‘home’. It will be sad to leave Paddington, but, as we have said many times before, we have more than outgrown our present location to the extent that it is badly interfering with our efficiency and expansion. At the time of writing we are still unsure of exactly what our new address will be, although it almost certainly will be in West London. So please carry on phoning and mailing to London Street until we inform you otherwise.

Office Equipment

When we do finally move, we will be much in need of office equipment such as desks, chairs, shelving, filing cabinets, etc. If any of you have anything you think may be of use, please get in touch immediately, so we can effectively plan ahead.

A New Voice On The Phone

Our advertisement in GN15, and an ad in Time Out, effectively provided us with a much needed Office Manager. The new voice on the phone is Mike Mason, who is already proving to be an indispensible member of the team that brings you Gay News every fortnight.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the other applicants, and hope that there is no ill feeling. You were all very fine people but as it turned out Mike’s qualifications and organisational ability brought him out on top.

Mail Order

As a response to the many requests from you, we have decided that within the next few editions we will be offering you the chance to take advantage of our Mail Order service. We intend to provide a prompt, efficient and inexpensive way of purchasing gay literature, etc, that you may have difficulty in obtaining elsewhere. The leading publishers in Great Britain, and eventually those in other countries, will be helping us to make this the most comprehensive and reliable way of getting important and much sought after books and magazines quickly to you, without charging the earth for the service. Further announcements about this new venture will appear in the paper soon.

Egg-less

Hope you are finding our ‘egg-less’ front covers acceptable. It gives our designer far more scope to work in, and it also means our covers will become progressively more eye-catching and exciting. Further design changes will be taking place soon, all of which should contribute to a greatly improved and far more readable GN.

Thanks to you we seem to be selling more copies of the paper with each new edition that comes out. We still have not reached the circulation figures which will keep our heads well above water, but if our rate of growth continues it won’t be too long. We just need your continued support.

Hope you are getting along alright with this copy of Gay News. The next edition, No 18, will be published on and available from 7th March. Deadlines for that issue are Friday 23rd February for copy, letters etc, and the morning of Tuesday 27th February for advertisements.

Editorial

Now that John Vassall has been released from prison (after serving an immoderately long portion of his 15-year sentence for spying for the Russians), and as a new book on Sir Roger Casement is about to be published, it’s time to wonder whether these ‘gay traitors’ would be as vulnerable now as they were in 1916 and 1962 respectively.

There can be no doubt that Sir Roger Casement, hanged for his part in the alleged importation of rifles into Ireland for the Irish revolutionaries – was condemned almost as soon as the British Secret Service “discovered” the controversial Black Diaries, which, they said, Casement had written cataloguing his sexual adventures for three years.

Vassall was forced into spying when he was blackmailed by the Russians who set up a man for him to sleep with. With the blackmailer’s usual weapon, film, the Russians turned a clergyman’s son who had risen to a trusted post in the Admiralty into a spy.

It’s easy to say that in 1962 gay love was illegal between men, and that everything’s, changed since 1967 and the Sexual Offences Act.

The sad and sick truth is that nothing has changed. The sexual Offences Act was a typical piece of “permissive legislation” that gives nothing away. Its clauses, exempt males under 21 and merchant seamen and all members of the armed forces and policemen as well as imposing the limitations of sex to groups of two “consenting” adults and “in private”.

The courts see fit to change their minds about what “in private” means with many of the cases of ‘indecency’ that come before them.

Gay sex between two adults may be free, but male homosexuals are still faced by the absurd and discriminatory 21-year-old-and-over rule. Obviously we have not got equality if the male of the species is seen by society as less responsible than his heterosexual counterpart. Whatever the law may tell us, there is still a stigma.

It is while society creates differences and these differences themselves create feelings of job-insecurity, social degradation, that the conditions that hanged Casement and forced John Vassall into spying on his own country survive.

If there is to be more than an empty charade of equality for gays on society’s part, there must be a significant change in the legal standing of homosexuals in Britain.

Acts of Parliament that say that we may do one thing, but not another are not enough. They are not permissive – in the sense of permitting us to do anything – but truly limiting.

By limiting their activity, and by seeing homosexuals as different creatures from heterosexuals, the law is forcing people into situations where blackmail and near-blackmail are still possible and practiced – after all, blackmail includes the fear of losing their jobs that frightens so many gays, possibly the majority, into leading secret lives.

Secret lives aren’t healthy. They’re not whole lives. They’re the sort of situation that gives the blackmailer scope to corner his victim.

It’s quite clear that if Sir Roger Casement were tried today, the court would not take such a grave view of the alleged diaries of his sex life. We remain unconvinced that a court could treat him as they would if the diaries had never been produced. Even today.

We remain unconvinced that no man could be blackmailed into spying because of his gayness.

To create another Vassall, all a spy master would have to do would be to put another male under 21-years old or a member of the armed forces in his way. Perhaps even an imaginitive spy-creator could arrange for his victim to be photographed in bed with two men.

The law is still discriminatory, as we have said. To us it seems that nothing has changed since 1916.

Editorial

We live in a democracy. It means we’re free to do and say what we like – and that’s official. But the way society is run might tempt cynics to say that British democracy means we have the right to do and say what the state and certain self-appointed arbiters of behaviour ordain.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act – which made gay love “legal” – specifically excludes members of the armed forces from equality with other gays, already a minority unequal with “straight” society.

At least the law spells out the ground rules even if they are, undoubtedly, wrong. For instance laws that limit gay sex to those not in the armed forces, over 21 and in two’s, in private are clearly indefensible because they make us unequal with the rest of society.

The main failing of the law, as it stands at present, is that it does not give gays the legal equality, however grudging, that black people must receive.

But far more oppressive than open harassment and legal inequality for blacks and gays alike is the sinister form of silent censorship that Gay News and all the gay organisations experience.

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality came up against the Angry Silence twice earlier this year when it was trying to fix the place for its first annual conference. Both Weymouth and Morecambe fought shy of having fairies al the end of the pier.

Recently CHE won a victory by managing to lay a wreath to the Unknown Gay Soldier at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday. When almost any old ex-Servicemen’s Club and association representing those who allow themselves to be ruled by traitors — that is, Rhodesia – are allowed to lay wreaths, the inequality of not allowing the Gay Liberation Front to lay just such a wreath last year shrieks of a society where the homosexual is not equal even with traitors in the view of the elite law-forming body, Parliament.

Gay News has troubles with the Angry Silence in many directions and they have taken a new turn of late.

We’re used to news wholesalers and retailers such as Smiths, Menzies and Selfridges, joining in the elitist freezing out of gays. And you’re used to reading about our distribution problems by now.

The latest bizarre turn in this “free-speech” state is the Evening Standard’s refusal of an advertisement for a sex-education movie quoting Gay News.

The man at the Standard told Cobra Films’ representative that the paper wouldn’t mind running the ad if only they would quote a “respectable film critic, tor instance Alexander Walker”.

Once again the Standard has shown that whilst it will use the word ‘gay’ in headlines to sell the paper, it will not countenance the fact that gays live, are organised and have their own newspaper.

The ad-man at the Standard said that the GN crit of Cobra-1 was “near-pornography”

He is entitled to his views, but the Standard should print views it does not agree with, as the press should leave its columns open to all sectors of society as Charles Wintour, the Standard’s editor says in his recent book on the press.

Indeed, many of us feel that the views put forward as the paper’s official policy – in its leaders — and other right-wing pontifications carried in its pages are pornographic.

Mr Wintour is responsible for all the opinions expressed in the Evening Standard, including the writings of the “respectable” Alexander Walker, who was brought to the Standard by Godfrey Winn who discovered him in Brighton.

Many of the views put forward by the Standard work towards an elitist society and towards eroding free speech so that a schoolteacher may not be gay – and honest – and keep his job (GN11).

They are promoting a society where a lie is preferable to the truth. And that really is pornographic. In strictly legal terms it’s liable to deprave and corrupt the ‘Bristows’ of this world. If that’s democracy at work, no wonder so many of the more radical gays see the fight for gay equality as part of a much bigger and economic change in society.

But we at GN are used to being excluded from the press. Time Out – to whom we are grateful for many things — would not publish our ad which mentioned the personal ads in the back of GN on the advice of their legal eagle.

The silent censorship of the Cobra Films ad by the Evening Standard shows that society is not willing to accept a gay newspaper as a genuine newspaper – and it follows that if Gay News isn’t accepted as a paper by our fellow journalists, no gay can expect to be treated as anything but a curio by Charles Wintour and others like him who affect the way the power-holding elite think – no individual gay or gay organisation.

We’re Doing Something

EDINBURGH: People working for homosexual law reform in Scotland were astonished to read GN11’s Editorial which — while making very pertinent points on Age of Consent and the heavy task ahead for those who will be promoting sexual law reform in the UK — failed to take account of progress in Scotland in 1972.

The main work has been carried out by the Scottish Minorities Group (Law Reform subcommittee), and by some office-bearers of the Scottish Council for Civil Liberties, to which SMG is affiliated. The whole work was greatly assisted by a donation from an SMG member of £100. Without this vital cash, SMG would not have been able to get beyond the “talking shop” stage.

The moves began in May 1971 when I (the SMG Chairman) successfully guided through an SMG Motion to the SCCL Annual General Meeting, calling on SCCL to take a firm stand on remaining social and legal discrimination against homosexuals in Scotland. This motion was on similar lines to that adopted by the National Union of Students (Scottish Region) in March 1971. A much expanded version is before the NUS Margate Conference, November 1972, proposed by the University of Reading.

In December 1971, the SMG Annual General Meeting adopted Councillor Ian Christie’s motion which instructed the Executive Committee (a) to consult with the SCCL upon the introduction of parliamentary legislation to repeal the 1885 Act as far as it applies to Scotland in order to legalise homosexual acts between consenting adults, and (b) to conduct an energetic campaign to enrol public opinion in Scotland in favour of such law reform.

We got off to a brisk start in January when the SMG pamphlet “The Case For Homosexual Law Reform in Scotland” was circulated to all 71 MPs who represented a Scottish constituency, and to a fair cross-section of Members of the House of Lords who had spoken out in favour of law reform in the 1960’s. The pamphlet was accompanied by a covering letter signed by Peter Wellington, the then Chairman of SCCL. The response was disappointing. Those MPs who even bothered to reply said they’d oppose Law Reform, or said that they were “sympathetic” but didn’t think it was an urgent issue. Liverpool CHE got much the same response when they wrote to all MPs in their area in May 1972. Disappointed as we were, we followed up the letters with an insistent lobbying campaign in the Edinburgh Area. The results of our conversations were quite encouraging (for the first time MPs were face-to-face with homosexuals, and it wasn’t so easy to be evasive), and we gradually realised that our best chances of success lay in the introduction of a Bill in the House of Lords.

Meanwhile (June 1972) we had completed our analysis of the (English) 1967 Act. A summary of this appeared in GN3 (July 1972). The analysis procedure was carried out over a series of committee meetings. We sought the views of SMG members through SMG NEWS, and wrote to several people with a knowledge of Scots law. We also began to write to the major religious and social institutions calling on them to inform SMG of their attitudes towards homosexual law reform, and to support the SMG campaign. So far, the Society of Friends in Scotland (Quakers) has expressed clear support for the SMG proposals.

This was the grimmest period of our work. The task was difficult and often distasteful. The existing law is couched in highly pejorative and emotive terms. Reluctantly we realised that we couldn’t hope to “clean up” all the phrases. The idea of a sexual “offence” is retained in our final proposals, as is the distinction between “sodomy” (buggery in England and Wales) and other types of sexual “offences”. Our legalisation proposals are fixed at 18 absolutely, with strong defence safeguards for 16 and 17-year-olds. No less than 5 Acts (3 exclusively relating to Scotland) are repealed in part or amended, and this explains why we felt it necessary to promote a “Scotland only” Bill — we really doubt whether an English Act could successfully take into account the fundamentally different aspects of Scots law. We have sent a copy of the Bill to Gay News. The Bill will be formally published on 2nd December 1972, and copies can be obtained from Mike Coulson, 9 Moray Place, Edinburgh, 3 at a cost of 30p each, post free.

Although we have had one definite response from a Member of the House of Lords, who has agreed “as a last resort” to introduce our Bill, we are still in the process of sounding out other Members’ views. Our lobbying campaign continues (up-to-date details from our Annual Report for 1972, issued 1st December), and the Crown Agent has congratulated us on the draughtsmanship of the proposed Bill. His main criterion is whether or not reform proposals are enforceable, and our proposals are “thoroughly enforceable”.

We have come under much pressure — even attack — from many homosexuals, some “figureheads”, for pushing ahead with Scottish proposals. When people haven’t been questioning us on the need for law reform (why bother, we’re okay thanks, brigade) others have criticised us for being too timid. Most people seemed to forget that the Law Reform Committee was (and is) working within the terms of the SCCL and SMG Annual Meeting instructions. Within these terms, we maintain, we have made good and solid progress towards Homosexual Law Reform for Scotland.

Ian Dunn

ED: The editorial in GN11 was written deliberately with the hope that we would receive such a response as above. To date we have received no replies from Campaign for Homosexual Equality or Gay Liberation Front.

We do though, consider it a great pity that SMG have settled for eighteen as being the consenting age for male homosexuals, for as we said in our editorial – ‘The age (of consent) should and must be sixteen, as it is with girls – for to settle for anything else would be an admission on our part that homosexuality is something different and strange.’

The Other Love

Continued from front page

19720914-06This book, like Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s books about Wilde, is really a plea for tolerance from the rest of society towards a group of people who really need no more help from society than for it to realise that we are human beings with a great capacity for love and happiness which is so often stifled by fear; their fear, and its result in us. This study deals with the repression throughout history of this social group through ignorance, stupidity and fear. Because of the Puritan strain in our society they try to make us feel guilty, even now, about the freedom to love. Bernard Shaw said of Oscar Wilde that at the time of his trials he pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the ‘offences’ of which he was accused because he did not feel ‘guilty.’

19720914-07The historical survey covers a range from Saxon times virtually to the present day but deals unfortunately with men only. Apparently women are more difficult to obtain information about. The three really important events were the changes of the law; that of Henry VIII’s time when in 1533 he made ‘the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast’ a felony and so punishable by death and forfeit of property. This law continued in force until 1861 when the abolition of the death penalty for ‘offences against the person’, was commuted to penal servitude for life or any term not less than ten years at the discretion of the court. This, plus the additional clause in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, was in force until its repeal in 1967.

The Criminal Law Amendment Act was really a mistake. It was originally concerned with the protection of young girls against juvenile prostitution and white slavery, its principal aim being to raise the ‘age of consent’ from thirteen years of age to sixteen. It was during the committee stage, ‘taken late at night on August 6th, 1885’, that the amendment clause was inserted by Henry Labouchere, a Liberal-Radical M.P.

ANY MALE PERSON WHO, IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATE, COMMITS, OR IS A PARTY TO THE COMMISSION OF, OR PROCURES OR ATTEMPTS TO PROCURE THE COMMISSION BY ANY MALE PERSON OF, ANY ACT OF GROSS INDECENCY WITH ANOTHER MALE PERSON, SHALL BE GUILTY OF A MISDEMEANOUR, AND BEING CONVICTED THEREOF, SHALL BE LIABLE, AT THE DISCRETION OF THE COURT, TO BE IMPRISONED FOR ANY TERM NOT EXCEEDING ONE YEAR WITH OR WITHOUT HARD LABOUR.

The Attorney-General, Sir Henry James, amended the original penalty to two years as a maximum penalty and as soon as the Royal Assent had been given there began a spate of correspondence in the newspapers; both legal and lay,… a learned Recorder dubbed it ‘The Blackmailer’s Charter’, and an eminent Q.C. prophesying that ‘juries would refuse to convict where the alleged acts were in private and not visible to any member of the public’.

‘On the other hand, those interested in the welfare of young girls welcomed the act so warmly (and indeed it was an excellent Act apart from section II), and it was so clearly impossible to do anything except let the law take its course, that after a few weeks the clamour died down and the public interest became centred upon some more savoury topic.’

So wrote Sir Travers Humphreys in 1948, one of the junior counsel during the trials of Oscar Wilde.

The new act was used extensively during the 82 years of its life, but apart from the Wilde trials which set several legal precedents and were until 1948 surrounded by an aura of mystery to all but the collector of rare books or privately printed editions, the period which I find the most intriguing is that of the early fifties, which some of us will remember slightly, but whose intrigues and scandals meant very little more than salacious newspaper reading.

It was in March 1951 that the drive against homosexuals became really intensified. This was due to the defection of the two British diplomats, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, to the Soviet Union. Maclean had been serving in a senior position in the British Embassy in Washington and is believed to have been blackmailed by Burgess and ‘Kim’ Philby – both Burgess and Maclean being homosexual, into handing over ‘top-secret’ information, to which he had access from American sources, to the Russians.

The Americans, apparently very concerned over Maclean’s sudden disappearance with Burgess, which had resulted from a ‘tip-off’ from Philby. They approached the British to weed out any of the known homosexuals from Government Service as bad security risks, as was being done also in the States. Macarthyism was ‘in full-swing’ over there too. The British campaign reached its height in the latter part of ‘53 and early ‘54, getting a good boost from the New Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Nott-Bower, who swore he would ‘rip the cover off all London’s filth spots’, according to one report. In October 1953 it was reported the Home Office had instructed the police to institute ‘a new drive against male vice.’

The new Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, (later Lord Kilmuir), had this to say in December 1953;

Homosexuals in general, are exhibitionists and pjoselytizers, (i.e. makers of converts!) and a danger to others, especially the young. So long as I hold the office of Home Secretary, I shall give no countenance to the view that they should not be prevented from being such a danger.

In the months that followed, many young men were trapped by the use of AGENTS PROVACATEURS. Peter Wildeblood in his excellent book, Against the Law, quoted here, witnessed two in action:

One night, when I had been working late at the office, I was walking along the Brompton Road towards my flat. Outside a closed public-house in a side turning I noticed two men loitering. A man aged about seventy, with white hair, walked past them and went into a lavatory at the side of the public-house. He was followed in by the younger of the two men. Almost immediately there was a sound of scuffling and shouting, and the older of the two men whom I had first noticed also ran into the lavatory. He and his companion dragged the old man out, each holding him by an arm. He was struggling and crying.

My first thought was that they must be local ‘roughs’ who were trying to rob the old man, so I went towards them and shouted at them to let him go, or I would call the police. The younger one said: ‘We are Police Officers.’ A woman who had joined us on the street corner asked what the old man had done, and was told that he had been ‘making a nuisance of himself’, He had now begun to struggle violently, and the two detectives pushed him up against the railings of the Cancer Hospital, outside which we were standing. His head became wedged between two iron spikes, and he started to scream. The detectives asked if one of us would ring up Chelsea Police Station and ask for a van to be sent: ‘Just tell them we’re at the top of Dovehouse Street, they’ll know what It’s about!’

The woman said: ‘You can do your own dirty work, damn you.’ It seemed to me, however, that the old man might be seriously injured if he continued to struggle, so I went into a telephone box a few yards away, telephoned the police station and spoke to the duty sergeant. He was evidently expecting a message, because the van arrived almost immediately. The old man, who by this time was lying on the pavement in a pool of blood, was picked up and taken away …

Of all the many cases which came before the courts, none caused as much stir as that involving Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Others involved were his cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, a film director, Kenneth Hume and Peter Wildeblood, at that time diplomatic correspondent for the Daily Mail.

Lord Montagu and Kenneth Hume appeared before Winchester Assizes on December 1953, accused of indecently assaulting two boy scouts (employed at his stately home as guides) who had gone with him and Hume to look for a camera he’d left at his beachhut. While there they had a bathe. He reported the loss of his camera to the police and while they were questioning the two boys they elicited an accusation of indecent assault from the two men.

While ‘enquiries were going on’ and rumours were making social life difficult for him, and particularly his sister, about to get married, Montagu went away to France and then to America. As soon as he heard there was a warrant out for his arrest he flew home, surrendering himself and his passport to the authorities. This proved to be an unwise move.

The prosecution sought to prove that instead of flying direct from Paris to New York on September 25th, as he swore in his evidence he had done, he had returned to England for a brief visit of a couple of days and had flown to America from England on September 25th. In support of this the prosecution pointed to an entry in his passport which seemed to indicate that he had been stamped out of Boulogne by the French Passport authorities on September 23rd. Montagu vigorously denied this, saying that he had not been in Boulogne for several years, and on examining the passport the judge pronounced that the date had been altered, the figure ‘5’ having been apparently changed from ‘4’.

Montagu was acquitted on the serious charge of committing an unnatural offence but on the lesser charge of indecent assault the jury disagreed and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that he should be tried again.

Three weeks later the arrests of Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood took place, the police searching their premises without warrants. They were charged with several specific indecency charges and of ‘conspiring’ with Montagu to commit them. This was highly prejudicial to Montagu’s pending second trial. This practice had been severely condemned by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1948, when Mr. Justice Humphreys had remarked:

– if the law of criminal conspiracy is to be invoked, then each count of the indictment should be framed so as to enable the jury to put their fingers on the specific point of the conspiracy as to which they are satisfied that the particular defendant is proved to have been implicated and to convict him of that offence only. It is an essential feature of the criminal law that the accused person should be able to tell from the indictment the precise nature of the charge or charges against him so as to be in a position to put forward his defence and to direct his evidence to meet them.

Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were specifically accused of offences with two R.A.F. men, Edward McNally and John Reynolds, again at the beach-hut near Beaulieu, and at the Pitt-Rivers estate in Dorset. Wildeblood, his friend McNally and Reynolds, used the hut for a holiday in 1952 and on their First night, Montagu gave a party to welcome them

It was a small party, consisting of Montagu and some friends he had brought down who were at a house party at Beaulieu. It was this that the Press built up into a Bacchanalian orgy while reporting the trial.

Montagu, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood were tried together at Winchester Assizes in March 1954. The charges in respect of the boy scouts .. were not included in the indictment, since neither Pitt-Rivers not Wildeblood had nay-thing to do with these .. The principal witnesses against the defendants were the two airmen, both of whom had been thoroughly intimidated:

It also came out that Reynolds was interrogated by the police for a total of eighteen hours and that McNally had been persuaded to ‘confess’ on being told that Reynolds had already ‘squealed’ … ‘The fact that neither of them was charged with any offence’, Wildeblood afterwards wrote, ‘proves, I think, conclusively that the Crown in this case was not even concerned with the administration of the law as it stood. It was simply out to put Montagu behind bars.’

It did, Pitt-Rivers and Wildeblood got 18 months, Montagu 12.

Some good came out of this, however. One thing was Wildebloods own book which I have been forced to read again after reviewing this book; a very powerful evication of the period: the other was that the Sunday Times devoted its leading article in the next issue after the conviction at Winchester entitled Law and Hypocrisy. This was followed by an equally powerful article in the New Statesman on The Police and the Montagu Case. These were not before the Church had put in a plea for the reform of the law, even when the charges were still pending at Winchester – a blow for the police. This had come from The Church of England Council for Moral Welfare.

The Government eventually bowed to the storm of criticism. Just a month after the Montagu trial the Home Secretary, along with the Secretary of State for Scotland, agreed to the appointment of a Departmental Committee to examine and report on the law of homosexual offences and the ‘parallel’ problem of the law relating to prostitution!

Questions in Parliament seem to have given Conservative peers virtual heart attacks. In the House of Lords, Earl Winterton, then in his seventies, after apologising for bringing forward ‘this nauseating subject’ castigated the Church of England for publishing the report of its Moral Welfare Council and praised the police for their recent actions, barking back to Wilde: ‘It may well be said that the Oscar Wilde case was a moral purge, and it may be that certain recent cases will have the same effect. If this be so, the whispering campaign against the police, which is going on very strongly, and sometimes in circles which ought to know better, should cease..’

The struggle was carried on by a number of people who met incredible opposition on all sides. In their speeches at the time they said things which are now liable to strike us quite amusing or amaze us with their naivete. But the most important thing to remember is that they were fighting for our future dignity. Even so I still can’t help smiling when I read phrases like:

‘These people are self-eliminating. They do not breed. They do very little harm if left to themselves .. ’ (‘makes us sound like rabbits.’) On the other hand we had remarks like this from Field-Marshall Montgomery of Alamein:

To condone unnatural offences in male persons over 21, or indeed in male persons of any age, seems to me to be utterly wrong .. – My main reason is that a weakening of the law will strike a blow at all those devoted people who are working to improve the moral fibre of the youth of this country. And heaven knows, it wants improving! Lord Kilmuir spoke of ‘the proselytisation which goes out from sodomitic societies and buggery clubs which everyone knows extsts,’ while Goddard expressed the conviction that if Arran’s Bill were passed it would be ‘a charter for these bugger’s clubs, ‘and they would consequently be able to spring up all over the place.’

Apparently no evidence could be discovered to prove the two distinguished lawyer’s statements about the existence of the bugger’s clubs, and when invited by the Homosexual Law Reform Society, ‘declined or were unable to do so.

The Departmental Committee, known as the Wolfenden Committee eventually produced its report in 1957 and although the Conservative Government of the time showed some reluctance to implement its suggestions, a prominent Labour front-bencher, Lord Pakenham (now Earl of Longford), spoke in favour in the House of Lords.

Things were still moving too slowly and so in 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society was formed with many famous supporters. Th They sent a letter to The Times in March, with about thirty well known signatures. More letters followed. However the Government still continued to take its time. Eventually, over a year after its publication after some prodding at the beginning of the session, the Government put down a motion in the Commons ‘that this House takes note of the Report,’ an ineffective and inconclusive motion expressly designed to avoid a vote.

In 1960 the Society held a meeting at The Caxton Hall in Westminster. Shortly before it, Mr. Butler, The Home Secretary received a deputation from the Society and informed its members that, since:

‘the public had not shown its feelings in the matter,’ it would be premature for the Government to introduce legislation.

Matters were further complicated by another spate of ‘spy cases’; the Vassall affair in 1962 seemed to be the culmination of them which had included Gordon Lonsdale and the Profumo affair. At the end of this period Mr. Macmillan resigned. He was succeeded by his Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home; He saw ‘no reason to think there had been a significant change in the balance of opinion since that time (the motion was heavily defeated in a debate in 1960), and I know that the Home Secretary, who has been keeping the matter under view, agrees with me.’

Further interruptions included the General Election when Labour was returned with a majority of five. We all know that it was not until July 27th 1967 that the Sexual Offences Act received the Royal Assent.

In moving that ‘this Bill do now pass’, Lord Arran said:

When we first debated these affairs – and how long ago it seems! – I said that your Lordships had it in your power to remove fear from the hearts of men. This you have done. It was this House that gave the lead. Because of the Bill now to be enacted, perhaps a million human beings will be able to live in greater peace. I find this an awesome and marvellous thing … My Lords, Mr. Wilde was right: the road has been long and the martyrdoms many, monstrous and bloody. Today, please God! sees the end of that road.

Mr. Montgomery Hyde’s book is a good account of the years leading up to the passing of the Act in 1967 and the years immediately following but I would now like to see a sequel dealing with our hopes for the future and the way these achieved. Many older homosexuals think that now the law has changed they do not need any thing further. They are free to live together as they choose, so long as they are over 21 etc., and can do so now without fear of summary arrest and search without warrant. But it is very important that the element who are dedicated to general liberation should agitate for those who are to come later. There is certainly nothing to be complacent about. We are bound to be unpopular. Oscar Wilde, writing quite some time before his trial had this to say:

Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community and sow the seeds of discontent among them. That is why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilisation.

This book is about an advance towards civilisation. We have come a long way since the | days of the capital offence but we have a long way still to go.

Make it Legal

19720901-14Hullo there. Nice to meet you. A few questions – okay?
Sure: go ahead.
You are over 21?
Oh yes; want to see my teeth?
No, your birth certificate. Thanks. Yes, that seems all right. Now, then. You do consent?
Oh yes — indeed.
Fine. And we are in private here aren’t we? I mean, you’re not with a mate who’s going to turn up and watch?
Dear me no: I’m on my own.
Good. Well, now. You’re not from Scotland, are you?
Never been there.
Nor from Ulster?
Certainly not!
Anything to prove it? Driving licence, insurance card, or such like?
Here you are.
Ah — thanks. We’re making progress. Now: you’re not in the army, I take it?
Oh, no.
Navy?
Sorry I can’t oblige.
Air force?
Neither.
Merchant Navy, possibly?
No, no.
Not fuzz, I hope …
No!!
I see. Now what have I forgotten?
To ask me if we’ve met through a published ad.
Well, we haven’t, have we? It was our pal who phoned me about you, wasn’t it?
Sure it was.
Fine. Well, I think it’s all nice and legal, then – at least, I hope so.
Me too. Shall we get some gear off?
Let’s!

The Unconventional Wisdom

04-197208XX 04Dr John Loraine has recently published a book entitled “The Death of To-morrow”. It caused considerable excitement in that it has a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh which could be taken as condoning the view expressed by the author that “unless reproductive activities are controlled there can be no future for mankind”. This relates directly to family planning and, by implication, to abortion. In the chapter of the book which deals with the subject and which is headed “Reproduction and the Conventional Wisdom” Dr Loraine also touches on homosexuality although very briefly. He states: “For homosexuality in men and women the conventional wisdom has no truck”. This is somewhat sweeping generalisation although it can be said to be true of a high percentage of public opinion. He is, of course, a Scot working in Edinburgh and the Sexual Offences Act does not run in Scotland. That is something which ought to be put right and it is reasonable to ask what Dr Loraine and others are going to do about it in the light of his fears about reproductive activities. The one thing that homosexuals cannot be accused of, even by the most prejudiced and uninformed of their critics, is increasing the population by over-production.

Dr Loraine asserts that “the monolithic pose of the conventional wisdom with respect to homosexuality will not endure indefinitely. The obsolescency of the approach will eventually become self-evident…”. Here again the relevant word is eventually – when is that to be? Dr Loraine indicates that he is not prepared to predict when he declares “It is evident that a fog of bigotry and prejudice surrounds adult homosexuality. What period of time must elapse before the winds of change finally disperse it?” But winds of change do not blow of their own accord: they have to be stirred up.

In this context it is worth remembering that the Wolfenden Report was published in 1957. That part of it which concerned prostitution was accepted without delay : the part dealing with homosexuality did not receive legislative approval until 1967. Ten years is a long time even in the life of politics. Even then it was left to the back-benchers to initiate that legislation. The Conservatives, on the advice of the late Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe ‘the hammer of homosexuals’ and later of R.A. Butler, expressed the view that public opinion was not ripe for such a change. The Socialists expressed no opinion but were prepared to allow time for the Bill. It is, let it be affirmed, the function of politicians and particularly governments, to guide public opinion and not to be guided by it. And, in this direction, there is still work to be done.

For those who took the trouble to study it the Wolfenden Report effectively destroyed the popular misconception that all homosexuals were, to put it crudely “queers” and “pansies” who tended to model themselves on Oscar Wilde and to dress and behave in an effeminate manner. Society was made to realise that many of the people whom it regarded as ‘regular guys’ in the office, commuting, in the golf club, in the pub, at football matches and who even played games, were addicted to homosexual practices or were complete homosexuals. It also realised that its children could be either homosexual or bi-sexual; which for most parents was a nasty shock.

Opposition to changing the law centred around the declared menace to the health of society, the damaging effect on family life and the suggestion that men who indulged in homosexual practices would instinctively thereafter turn their attention to boys. It was all summed up under the umbrella title of undermining the moral fibre of the nation. After hearing all the evidence the Wolfenden Committee rightly rejected all these arguments and went so far as to say “We have had no reasons shown to us that lead us to believe that homosexual behaviour between males inflicts any greater damage on family life than adultery, fornication and lesbian behaviour”. This led them, amongst other things, to recommend that it should cease to be classified as a criminal offence.

But although the law has been changed, the position of the homosexual, after five years, has not changed commensurately in society. There is still ostracism, harassment, oppression and consequent repression. Beyond the political sphere education in its fullest form is the key to reform. The Wolfenden Committee indicated the true nature of homosexuality and expressed its views as to what should be the position of the homosexual in society. Although these were ultimately accepted by Parliament they have not been reflected in the attitudes of a great many parents nor by the majority of educationalists. Until this state of affairs is rectified there will continue to be hostility and indifference on the one hand and guilt-complex and depression on the other. Education never ceases in life but for some, so far as sex is concerned, it never seems to begin. Consequently fathers feel that it is an attribute unworthy of their progeny and an insult to themselves. Mothers take it as a contribution against their own sex and resent it. There is none of the sympathy nor the affection which is given to mongols and to children who are mentally or physically handicapped. All this is alarming because it illustrates the magnitude of the problems which confront those who want to put matters right and it also explains why society, from a basis of ignorance and prejudice, is still reluctant to accept the homosexual as a first-class citizen.

Sexually we are what we are. How we behave sexually depends to a large extent on upbringing, environment, and our own capacity to exercise self-discipline. Being treated initially as people whose parents are ashamed of them and subsequently as social outcasts is the surest way of increasing the problems of homosexuals and tends to reduce their usefulness to society and, in many cases, induces an unjustified inferiority complex and a sense of hostility to others.

It is time for parents and teachers to face up to realities. Homosexuals are not perverts they are simply different. And there is nothing wrong in being different. Society through its leaders must accept this. The politicians must continue to rectify the position first of all by changing the age of consent which at 21 is absurd. Scotland and Northern Ireland must be brought into line with the rest of the country. The exclusion of the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy from the terms of the Sexual Offences Act must cease. In addition a clear directive must be given to the police with regard to the intentions of that Act. The religious leaders must accept the fact that homosexuality is not a sin and act accordingly towards the homosexual members of their congregations. The Medical profession must carry out the recommendations of Wolfenden that they should study homosexuality more deeply and instruct medical students with regard to it. C.H.E. and G.L.F. must pursue these objectives and seek to influence public opinion in order that they may be achieved.

This is the unconventional wisdom which must prevail over the conventional wisdom which is prejudiced stupidity. To-day there are two societies – the heterosexual in the majority and the homosexual which is in the minority. The time has come to end this divisiveness so that the homosexual element can play its proper part in the daily ordering of things. It is not a question of adjusting the attitudes of two societies but of creating one society.

Sexual Offences Report

REPORT ON SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT 1967 of the SMG LAW REFORM SUB-COMMITTEE

03-197207XX-04We hold as basic to our philosophy the principle that the State has no cause to interfere with or punish sexual behaviour or expression which does not involve assault, interference with children, or an affront to decency causing annoyance or nuisance to the public.

The 1967 Act falls short of this principle in a number of respects. We list as the most outstanding anomalies the following:

AGE OF CONSENT (Clause 1 (1)). 21 is now even more difficult to justify than when the act was passed, in view of the fact that the legal age of majority has been lowered to 18 by the Family Reform Act 1969

‘IN PRIVATE’ The definition in Clause 1 (2) is more restrictive than that envisaged by the Wolfenden Committee, and is undesirable both because of its discriminatory nature and the handle it gives to blackmailers.

EXCLUSION OF MEMBERS of the Armed Services and the Merchant Navy. (Clause 1(5) and Clause 2). This goes beyond the Wolfenden proposals and extends to off-duty circumstances which could not conceivably affect discipline and which could not constitute an offence if committed by a civilian.

EXCLUSION OF SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND (Clause 11 (5)). Under the differing sexual conduct laws in different parts of the United Kingdom, adult male homosexuals in Scotland and Northern Ireland have fewer rights than those in England and Wales. At the same time it should be mentioned that at least one penalty under the 1967 Act is harsher than its equivalent under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act. namely that prescribed in Clause 3(2), where the maximum penalty is increased from 2 to 5 years.

MAXIMUM PENALTIES as laid down need revision and rationalization, as do those for sexual offences generally. They are in every case too severe. The primary consideration in assessing the gravity of an offence should be not the precise nature of the act committed but the degree of compulsion or intimidation involved.

PROCURING a homosexual act (even though not for purposes of gain) which is not itself an offence remains punishable under the 1967 Act (Clause 4).

CONSPIRACY is not dealt with in the Act. In the light of recent charges of “conspiracy to corrupt public morals” it would appear that invitations to commit lawful homosexual acts may be an offence in circumstances where similar invitations to commit heterosexual acts are not. The recent House of Lords narrow interpretation of the 1967 Act (14 June 1972) confirms this.

BYE-LAW OFFENCES vary widely and are outside the scope of the Act.

Michael Coulson
Convener, Law Reform Sub-Committee.


S.M.G. August Conference.

The Scottish Minorities Group is holding its Conference on Homosexuality in the Heriot-Watt University Students’ Centre, 30 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, on Saturday 5th August 1972, from 10am to 6pm. (Entrance Fee £1 per person.)


SCOTTISH MINORITIES GROUP.

MEETINGS;

  • EDINBURGH, from 7.45pm to 9.00pm in the basement of 23 George Square. Check with Mike Coulson at 031-225 4395. Women’s Group at 7.30pm. Saturdays from 9.30pm to 12.30pm coffee/food/dance at the same address.
  • GLASGOW, meetings every Tuesday at 8.00pm at 8 Dunearn Street. Glasgow C4. Women’s Group at 184 Swinton Road, at 8 00pm. Third Friday of every month at 214 Clyde Street (library of community house) invited speakers, from 8pm.
  • DUNDEE, every Friday at Dundee University Chaplaincy. Social. Details from 041-771 7600.
  • ABERDEEN, Weekly social meetings. Details from 041-771 7600