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.’

Editorial

One of the main criticisms we receive of our editorials is that they are usually about the same subject from issue to issue. Whilst we try to avoid being boring, we cannot help but be repetitious. This is because so many of the points continually mentioned are concerned with the livelihood and the expansion of the paper. If we keep on appealing, it’s because we really have to. So next time you realise you are reading something which is more or less the same as words which appeared in a previous issue, please remember that the help we are asking for is really needed and situation mentioned hasn’t improved overnight.

Just for a change though, we would like to include a few other things in this issue’s editorial, that are not directly associated with the internal running or survival or Gay News.

Age Of Consent

Firstly, you may have read that people of eighteen (who can also vote, marry without parental consent, drink alcohol, die for their country, etc) will soon be called to do jury duty. Not all of you may agree with this, but it’s going to happen. We think at GN that it is an important advancement. But what this new social development brings to our minds is the fact that people on reaching the magic age of eighteen can do everything an ‘adult’ can, except in one area. Male homosexuals still cannot choose who they make love to until they are twenty one. And that’s ridiculous. If someone is considered adult enough to condemn or release a defendant accused of a crime – which can range from murder to traffic offences – then surely they must be capable of exploring their own sexuality in whatever direction it takes them.

Surely it is time that this primitive situation was changed once and for all. And we don’t mean just settling for the age of consent being lowered to eighteen. The age 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. No aware homosexual can possibly think that. As we have said before in GN, not to be oneself, whether through self-denial or legal pressures, is what’s queer.

Who’s Doing Anything

Last week we tried to find out who, whether individuals or organisations, was trying to start the moves to alter the existing legislation with regard to the present age of consent. Apart from a few vague answers, we drew a blank. A very discouraging and saddening discovery. We believe that the longer this area of gay oppression remains, then the harder it will become to gain any reform. So if anyone, anywhere, is doing something about gaining the necessary changes, let us know. We will give you all the support and encouragement we can, and you are welcome to use the pages of GN to attract support and interest for your campaign. We realise that such a task is not easy. One has to get the support of many influential and sympathetic people, both in and out of Parliament. A bill has to be prepared, publicity obtained throughout the various mass medias and so on. But this is such an important matter that the amount of work involved will eventually be justified by the success of changing blind, oppressive, ignorant laws. Of course, it will be the generations that follow us who will feel the benefits of any changes, but does this mean that we should not be responsible for contributing to the advancement of society?

Mugging

In most papers recently, the word ‘mugging’ has been appearing more and more frequently. Mugging is a particularly disturbing crime and its apparent rise in notoriety is cause for concern. Even the Duke of Edinburgh has described it as a ‘disease’. But the national press seems to be under the impression that this is a new phenomenon in the world of violent crime. It most certainly isn’t. Gays have been subject to mugging – or queer bashing as it is called when directed against homosexuals (both male and female) – for quite some time. As we all know, gays have been favourite victims for those wishing to use fear and brutality as their means of gaining material rewards. At times this has resulted in death or the sustaining of lifelong injuries. Also, as is more often the case, gays – because of the treatment, lack of sympathy, and half-hearted inquiries they expect from the police – have not reported robberies and violence committed against them, and subsequently we are unaware of exactly how many of these frightening crimes have gone unnoticed and unrecorded.

The exploitation of people through fear is a disgusting, obscene occurrence, and those responsible should feel the full weight of the law for such acts. Human scum such as the Kray brothers and the South London ‘Richardson Gang’ have fortunately been removed from society for some time to come. These other merchants of fear also deserve the same treatment and sentences.

So we see it as a pity when other papers pick up on mugging as if it were something new and tend to turn it into a trendy crime. They ignore or forget that some citizens for many years have been experiencing similar barbaric acts – but called by a different name – and because of social attitudes, the victims have not sought the protection or help of the law.

Gay News will be approaching Scotland Yard on their present attitudes towards homosexual victims of mugging. We hope we will receive the answers that those who live in a supposedly enlightened society will want to hear. We will also examine the attitudes of individual members of the police force and those of local police stations. In due course the results of our enquiries will appear in GN’s pages.

We hopefully expect to hear from you on these subjects. They are important to all of us and your opinions and suggestions are invaluable to both us and the people who read them, whether they are gay or heterosexual, male or female.

Christmas Edition

Please don’t forget that we need your help in getting a really good Christmas issue together. If it is to be a success, we must have your ideas, articles, suggestions, etc. Let’s make it an edition that will be well worth having around over the Christmas holidays. We can do it together.

Personal Ads

Your personal ads keep on flowing in. We seem to print a few more with each new issue. And that’s fine with us. We’re sorry that we sometimes have to slightly amend a few of your ads, but we don’t want to invite legal proceedings against us more than we have to. The Gay News collective isn’t comprised of martyrs, just people who think contact ads are a service that is wanted by some of you. And if you take advantage of this service, good for you and the best of luck and love.

Loneliness and isolation are terrible things to endure, and if we can help remove them from people’s lives, we will. Remember too, your morality is your affair, not ours, not the Director of Public Prosecution’s, nor even The House of Lords’.

Christmas can be a very lonely period, so if you think an appropriate ad in GN may be of use in making sure that you or other gays are not alone in the season of ‘peace and goodwill’ why not send one in. We. suggest our late November issue is the most suitable to use for this purpose, as it gives people time to reply before the Christmas postal rush is on. For that issue please make sure you have your ads to us no later than 21st November. And we on our part will send off replies to your box numbers as speedily as possible.

By the way, Gay News is bought by more people than any other gay publication in this country. As a result your ads are read more than those appearing elsewhere. Don’t forget that we are the only gay publication to come out fortnightly, and a conservative estimate of our readership, as opposed to those who actually buy it, is at least thirty thousand. (This assessment is based on accepted advertising circulation figures.) No wonder some of you receive so many replies to the ads you place.

Gays Kept Away From Shoppers

BRIGHTON: The town’s Gay Liberation Front went on the march recently when it held the first Brighton Gay Day — which campaigned specifically for the lowering of the age of gay consent to 16 and equality for homosexuals in society.

It was a start, even if only about 30 gays did come out with their banners for the rerouted march along the seafront and into a shopping precinct.

The marchers handed out leaflets to the public, but the official change-of-mind about letting the gays march through the crowded shopping centre of Brighton and leaving them only the mainly deserted sea shore to parade along, made certain that not too many people would be there to get the message Brighton GLF was trying to hand out.

The official reason for re-routing the march was that the gays’ banners might cause a breach of the peace. Brighton GLF was told of this change-of-heart just a day before the Gay Day was due to take place.

The only incident around the march was abuse thrown at the gays by members of the public. The police moved them on quietly.

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!

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.