In The Press Series now LGBT laws of the UK
I’m calling a halt on the ‘In The Press’ Series, for one reason alone. Way Too Much Information for a single (sob!) gay man to do alone. these were meant to come around during the week that there was no episode – but it’s too much research, especially when you start hitting on the post-internet days. – It would have been a fine project on its own – I may come back to it at some point though, but considering I’m looking after the site, promoting the hell out of this project AND writing the stage play something has to give! (Especially since after this one – I’ve STILL had another 20 YEARS to do!!!)
Instead of looking at ‘The Press’ – I’m going to look at the laws on how we got to the 1990’s mess of Section 28, and then go beyond.
This is all from ‘A timeline of LGBT communities in the UK’ by The British Library.
In 1533, we start off with The Buggery Act sounds more like a porn video than a piece of legislation but here we are! The Buggery Act was passed during Henry VIII but was renewed in 1536, 1539 and 1548. The Buggery Act wasn’t just targeting homosexual humans, it also applied to acts between a human and an animal.
Conviction of Buggery – DEATH
Thankfully this law was repealed – but it was replaced by the Offences Against the Person Act 1828 BUT the language changed so that animals weren’t included, but man on man activity was, women weren’t included in this unlike the Buggery Act, so the Lesbians have been able to have same-sex activities way back in 1828, whereas the poor gay man has to wait.
Conviction of Offences Against the Person Act 1828 – DEATH – although 1835, saw the last two men who were executed for homosexual acts.
In 1861, saw an amendment, so the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 as it was called, but the penalty down a bit…
Conviction of Offences Against the Person Act 1828 – prison term of hard labour between 10 years and life.
In the 1920’s they tried a bit of equality YAY! This was targeted towards lesbians and it was to make girl on girl action illegal. Both Houses of parliament rejected the bill, as there was a concern that simply by passing the bill would encourage women to explore their sexuality! So the girl on girl action was still safe!!
In the 1950s for those that want a real specific date 15th May 1951 – saw the first trans person to undergo gender reassignment surgery (MtF)
In 1954 was The Wolfenden Committee – there had been ‘a significant increase in arrests and prosecutions of men under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885‘ – one of those arrests was Alan Turning – one of the many people who were behind breaking the Enigma Code in WW2 and gave birth to the electronic computer. The same committee came up with a report, suggesting decriminalisation of gay sex between consenting adults should be over 21 and in private. This gave way to..
Sexual Offences Act 1967 – In a nutshell, heterosexual and lesbian sex at this point was 16. man on man action, over 21, no more than two people and in a private room.
Across the Pond – The DSM II (Classification of mental disorders) lists homosexuality as a mental health condition in 1968. The DSM listings are adopted by the World Health Organisation – which meant that although it was legal to have sex over the age of 21, this bought in ‘conversion therapy’ into the UK.
1980 in Scotland bought the Age of Consent for man on men action down to 18 – but still in a private room!
This is the point where HIV/AIDS shows up within the timeline – you have to bear in mind that there was a lot of media interest which then spilt over into public fear (sound familiar??) As fear got widespread AND that the ‘Loony Left’ were giving funding to ‘unheard-of minor groups’ – Thatcher’s Government had to be seen to be doing something, problem was that what came with the fear of HIV/AIDS was also the fear of the homosexual, as gay men were dying – especially ones in the public eye – so this fear was real – and Thatcher’s Government wanted to promote the family – hence Section 28
1988 was when Section 28 was bought in. The amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 – section 28 – stated that “a local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality
or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Section 28 was well supported by nearly all the religious groups here are the reasons for supporting it:
- The promotion of homosexuality in schools undermines marriage.
- Section 28 prohibited only the promotion of homosexuality and did not prevent legitimate discussion.
- Section 28 did not prevent the counselling of pupils who are being bullied. (BS BS BS!)
- Proponents pointed to various polls in an attempt to demonstrate that public opinion favoured keeping Section 28.
Although in 1992, The World Health Organization removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
I will begin in 1994 on the next post in this series.