Dan Carter looks at the important dates in LGBT history
Whilst LGBT people have been seen throughout all of human history and certainly throughout the last 1000 years of British history I will look at key dates from the mid 1800’s up till the present day.
1861 – The death penalty for sex between two men (buggery at the time) was abolished, homosexuality would remain illegal for over 100 years with gay people still persecuted for consensual sexual activity.
1895 – Oscar Wilde, the famous writer, was charged with Gross Indecency with other men after his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas was discovered. Wilde was sentenced to 2 years of hard labour and left prison in 1897 after which he left Britain to spend the remainder of his life in France.
1921 – The House of Commons attempted to make ‘gross indecency’ between women an offence by amending the Criminal Law Amendment Act, whilst the amendment did pass the Commons it was defeated in the House of Lords and never made it onto the statute book.
1952 – Alan Turing, the genius code breaker of World War 2 and ‘father of modern computing’. was persecuted for homosexual acts. At the time of his sentencing Turing opted for chemical castration rather than go to prison. In 1954 Turing committed suicide via cyanide poisoning. He eventually received a public apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009.
1957/58 – The Wolfenden report, which looked at Homosexual Offences and Prostitution proposed to the British Government that homosexuality should not be a criminal offence. In 1958 the Homosexual Law Reform Society was founded and sought to decriminalise homosexuality in the UK.
1967 – The Sexual Offences Bill was passed by the British Parliament, this decriminalised homosexual acts between two men aged over 21 years old in England and Wales. Oddly the Act stipulated that a third person could not be present at the time, so threesomes were definitely off the table. Given her later statements and actions as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was an MP at the time voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality.
1980 – The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act decriminalised homosexual acts between men aged over 21 years old.
1981 – The first case of Aids is reported in the UK, the man died 10 days after his diagnosis.
1984 – Health Minister, Kenneth Clarke, enacted powers to detain Aids patients in hospital against their will. This illogical and paranoid driven move would undoubtedly have the knock on effect of less people coming forward to get tested.
1989 – The Conservative Government passes Section 28 of the Local Government Act into law, the act was introduced by Margaret Thatcher and sought to ban local authorities and schools from publishing material that ‘promoted’ homosexuality in a positive light.
1997 – The Labour Party win a landslide under the leadership of Tony Blair, during his premiership a decade of progressive LGBT rights policies are passed into law.
2001 – After much opposition from Tory MPs and the bill being blocked in the House of Lords the Labour Government is able to force through a reduction in the age of consent bringing the age men can have sex with men down to 16 years of age. Group sex among men is also decriminalised so threesomes are back on the table (or wherever you prefer them).
2003 – The Labour Government is finally able to repeal the highly damaging Section 28 from law across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
2004 – The Civil Partnership Act is passed into law allowing for the first legal recognition of same-sex relationships. In the same year the Gender Recognition Act is also passed into law allowing transsexual people to acquire new birth certificates.
2009 – Tory Leader, David Cameron, apologises on behalf of his party for their introduction of Section 28.
2013 – The Coalition Government led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg propose their Marriage Bill, to the credit of PM David Cameron he did so despite huge opposition from within the Tory Party, 133 Tory MPs opposed the bill, but the bill became law after gaining cross party support throughout the Commons. The first same-sex marriage would take place in 2014.
2015 – Scientist unveil a daily pill known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which cuts the risk of HIV infection among gay men by 86%. In 2016 a dramatic fall of HIV infections was reported in London, the rate of infections was 40% lower than in 2015.
As of 2017 there are now 45 LGBT MP’s elected to the House of Commons, LGBT rights have become a fact of life in the UK, it is not just a case that legislation has changed but also public perception. In 1987 a British Society Attitudes survey found that 64% of people surveyed thought sex between two members of the same sex was always wrong. In 2012, in the same survey only 22% of respondents thought such activity was always wrong. There is still a way to go for LGBT people in the UK, since 2016 reported hate crimes against LGBT people have seen an increase with thousands of incidents still reported but given the relatively short time it has taken LGBT rights look set to continue to improve as the years move on.