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I met them at their house in north-west London, where we talked in a room overflowing with books. Grey is tall and used to look distinguished; he has had leukaemia and is gaunt now. But his memories of the period are precise. In the early days, they tell me, living together was a dangerous business. When a drunk coach driver crashed into their car outside their house in the night, 'the first thing we had to do was make up the spare bed. We knew from experience that if you called the police and they suspected you were homosexual, they would ignore the original crime and concentrate on the homosexuality.

This was what happened to Alan Turing, the mathematician and Enigma codebreaker. In , he reported a break-in and was subsequently convicted of gross indecency. Though he escaped prison, he was forced to undergo hormone therapy and lost his security clearance; he later committed suicide by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

For all that the law was draconian, it was also unenforceable. As a result, arrests often seemed to have an arbitrary, random quality. When Allan Horsfall became a Bolton councillor in , he discovered that a public lavatory used for cottaging was well known to police and magistrates, yet there hadn't been a conviction in 30 years. On the other hand, there would be intermittent trawls through address books of suspected homosexuals, with the result that up to 20 men at a time would appear in the dock, accused of being a 'homosexual ring', even though many of them might never have met many of the others.

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He explains: 'In this case, there was no public sex, no underage sex, no multiple sex. Yet they were all dragged to court and a year-old considered to be the ringleader was sentenced to 21 months. I wrote a letter to the Bolton Evening News. They had four more letters in support and none against and the deputy editor was visited by the local police, who wanted to know if he thought this was what the people of Bolton really thought about the enforcement of this law.

Horsfall thought it probably was and set up his campaigning group, which would play an important role in demonstrating to politicians that reform wasn't merely the preoccupation of a metropolitan coterie. When the objection was made, as it often was, that the powerful miners' groups wouldn't stand for legalisation, Horsfall was able to point out that he ran his campaign from a house in a mining village where he lived with another man and had never had any trouble with the neighbours.

In the mids, there was an atmosphere of a witch-hunt probably not unrelated to what was happening in America with McCarthy , with consequent opportunities for blackmail. Leo Abse, who eventually piloted the Sexual Law Reform Act through Parliament, recalls that, as a lawyer in Cardiff, his fees from criminals suddenly all started coming from the account of one man. He investigated and found he was 'a poor vicar. The bastards were bleeding him.

I sent for one of the criminals and told him if I had another cheque from this man, I'd get him sent down for 10 years.

Coming out of the dark ages | Society | The Guardian

I sent for the vicar and told him to come to me if they approached him again. MPs on both sides of the House began to demand action. One or two newspapers ran leaders. And then there was another high-profile case in which the police were called on one matter and ended up prosecuting another. Edward Montagu, later Lord Beaulieu, contacted the police over a stolen camera and ended up in prison for a year for gross indecency. Their trial in probably played into the decision of the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, to establish the Wolfenden Committee to consider whether a change in the law was necessary.

As Lord Kilmuir, Maxwell-Fyfe led the opposition to law reform in the Lords, so it was ironic that he started the process. Perhaps he thought, by handing over to a committee, to shelve the issue. Perhaps he assumed Wolfenden would find against, in which case, he chose a curious chairman, because Wolfenden had a gay son, Jeremy.

Antony Grey told me that when Wolfenden accepted the job, he wrote to Jeremy saying it would be better if he weren't seen around him too often in lipstick and make-up. Allan Horsfall believes homosexuality was tacked on very late in the day to the business of a committee that had already been set up to look into the legal status of prostitution. Certainly, its remit covered both; its findings were popularly referred to as the Vice report. That would make sense of the choice of chairman, although it is also possible that, given the secretive atmosphere of the time, Maxwell-Fyfe didn't know Wolfenden had a son who wore make-up.

The Wolfenden Committee sat for three years and recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be illegal. Setting the tone for the discussion about law reform that would follow, it made no attempt to argue that homosexuality wasn't immoral, only that the law was impractical. The age of consent should, in the committee's view, be set at 21 it was 16 for heterosexuals.

The weedy reasoning behind this was that young men left the control of their parents for university or national service. In fact, it seems to have reflected a general prejudice that homosexuals were even more simple-minded than girls. I met Leo Abse at his beautiful house overlooking the Thames at Kew where, he says, he is kept alive by his young wife Ania.

He is 90 now and deaf, but mentally acute and still writing books. We talked in his first-floor drawing room as swans floated by outside. For all its shortcomings, the Wolfenden report is usually regarded as the key turning point in the fight for legalisation, the moment at which a government-appointed body said unequivocally that the law should change. Abse insisted that its importance has been exaggerated.

A myth has grown up: the myth of pre-Wolfenden and after.


It was only a staging post. When I arrived in the Commons after Wolfenden, the vote against it was overwhelming. Ten years of struggle came after. It's true that an awful lot of lobbying remained to be done. From our perspective of the early 21st century, when the churches seem so afraid of homosexuality, it's interesting that in this period they consistently and visibly backed reform. Antony Grey became secretary in , using the pen name he used for any letters he had published his real name is Anthony Edward Gartside Wright : 'My father was dying. I didn't tell my parents I was gay until I was nearly 30 and they thought it was some foul disease.

They were never comfortable with it. A long campaign ensued of talks to the WI and Rotary Clubs, university debates, public meetings and letter-writing. The meagre amount that the HLRS could afford to pay Grey was supplemented by means of a Saturday sub-editing job on The Observer, offered him by David Astor, then the paper's owner and editor, who was a supporter of reform. The campaigning work was exhausting and often thankless and the opposition a mixture of vituperative and mad. Grey once caused consternation at a Rotary dinner when asked what homosexuals were really like, by answering, 'rather like a Rotary Club'.

An opponent in a Cambridge University debate, Dame Peggy Shepherd, asked him over a nightcap at their hotel, 'Tell me, why are you so concerned about these unfortunate people? Various stabs were made at bringing the matter before Parliament, but the first really promising development came with a bill in the Lords in July It was sponsored by Lord Arran, an unlikely reformer: known to his friends as Boofy, he kept a pet badger.

Grey recalls going for tea with him, with the creature in his lap. He had inherited the title because his older brother, who was gay, had committed suicide. He was related to everyone and was always saying things like, "I'll have a word with Cousin Salisbury about that.

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He more or less had to be dried out afterwards. For the opposition, Lord Kilmuir warned against licensing the 'buggers' clubs' which he claimed were operating behind innocent-looking doors all over London. But Arran, supported by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, won his third reading by 96 votes to In the Sixties, the Lords led the way, quite unlike the situation in , when the age of consent was finally equalised after the government invoked the rarely used Parliament Act to overrule a House of Lords that had thrown it out three times.

Like the churches, the Lords has become more conservative about homosexuality over the years. The Catholic Archbishops of Westminster and Birmingham argued for exemptions in the Equality Act which would have allowed homosexuals to be turned away from soup kitchens and hospices. Arran's bill ran out of parliamentary time, but its success meant the pressure was now on for the Commons. He was gay and in many ways, the lobby, certainly Grey, would have preferred him.

It seemed to me that most people weren't worried about the details. Abse takes a different view. He was gay and everyone knew.

He was an enfant terrible who never grew up. I don't think he could have got it through. Back in the new Parliament, Abse gave notice in the July that he intended to move a Minute Rule bill.

Homosexuality and the Law

By his own account, he was not the man the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins who wanted reform, fought for it in cabinet, guaranteed parliamentary time and assiduously sat through all the debates would have chosen to pilot it through. Abse believes Jenkins would have preferred Michael Foot, for two reasons.

First, he says, Jenkins wanted 'to bog down Michael', whom he saw as a potential rival in any leadership contest; and second, he 'thought I was too dangerous a character. I was too colourful'. He points to a shield on the wall, given to him by the Clothing Federation for being the best-dressed MP in Parliament. My wife - my first wife - used to dress me up. As a result of the experience of the Pond-Langbehn family, and the stories of many other couples, President Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to issue regulations requiring any hospital participating in Medicare or Medicaid to allow gay and lesbian partners the same privileges and rights as heterosexual partners.

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services CMS issued new rules in November requiring hospitals to respect the right of all patients to choose who may visit them while they are in hospital. Couples in state-registered domestic partnerships in any state cannot file their federal tax return as a married couple.

The rules around domestic partnership taxes are unclear, and same-sex domestic partners should speak with a qualified tax professional to obtain tax advice. Notably, most automated tax services are not programmed to handle these complications. When choosing a tax professional, it is important that same-sex couples choose someone familiar with LGBT issues. Unfortunately, even though same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington State, many same-sex couples still face discrimination. There is often a different expectation placed on same-sex couples versus opposite-sex couples, when it comes to proving the status of their relationship to obtain their legal rights.

For instance, same-sex couples often must document their relationship using a marriage license, power of attorney, etc. Opposite-sex couples typically do not have to provide proof that they are married. This should mean that both parents can appear on the birth certificate in the hospital. Many couples, however, experience a problem with this—especially male couples who use a surrogate. Talking to the hospital prior to the birth of the child may help eliminate difficulties when the child is born.

If a couple is unable to get a hospital to comply, they can get an amended birth certificate to list them both as the parents of the child. Many religious organizations or officials refuse to participate in marriage ceremonies involving a same-sex couple. While this is not illegal, it is a barrier that heterosexual couples rarely have to face. Another major hurdle experienced by couples in same-sex marriages, same-sex domestic partnerships or civil unions is the confusing nature of interstate recognition of their relationships.

The landscape of whether states legally recognize same-sex relationships and the level to which they recognize these relationships changes rapidly, making it difficult for couples travelling throughout the U. Due to the existence of state DOMAs, and the reality that even with legal marriage some people and institutions may try to deny same-sex couples certain rights and responsibilities, the best practice for same-sex couples is to obtain legal powers of attorney.

Choosing to live in a state that does not recognize their relationship can impact property rights, inheritance rights, and over 1, other rights and responsibilities. It is an unfortunate reality for same-sex couples that they have to weigh potential economic or social gains of a move to a new state, against the risks to their rights and benefits because that state does not recognize their marriage.

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Same-sex couples often encounter problems when interacting with those who do not understand what rights and responsibilities are conveyed through domestic partnerships and civil unions. There are many stories of couples dealing with discrimination at hospitals, places of business, and even in certain government agencies. Most of this discrimination occurs because people, businesses, and agencies, do not understand the legal complexities of these unions.