This Thursday marks a monumental moment: 50 years since homosexual acts between men were partially decriminalised; 50 years since the law recognised consenting adults’ right to same-sex relationships.
In this short blog series, we’ve tried to show that there was a surprising social scene available to LGBT+ people before partial decriminalisation, which thrived despite police surveillance and persecution.
As Sammy Sturgess’ blog explains, despite the Wolfenden Report’s progressive recommendations to decriminalise homosexual acts in private, legislation was not passed until 1967 – ten years later. This is contrary to the recommendations on sex work, which passed immediately into law under the Street Offences Act of 1959; this gave police more powers to arrest women on the street. In an era known for liberal social attitudes the law became more restrictive on women who sold sex.
Campaigning for change
Between 1957 and 1967, various organisations repeatedly petitioned the Home Office to try and effect changes in the law. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) and the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) both put pressure on the government. The HLRS was founded on 12 May 1958, directly in response to the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report, to campaign for the decriminalisation. CHE was founded in 1964 by Allan Horsfall and others as the North Western Committee for Homosexual Law Reform. Continue reading »