Sunday, June 24, 2007

Life after Wolfenden

Today's Observer has a gripping account of the passage of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexuality in England (Scotland would follow only in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982!). The Act came a good 10 years after the Wolfenden committee recommended decriminalisation. Speculating on why the then Home Secretary David Maxwell-Fyfe even initiated the process given that he was opposed to any change in the law, Geraldine Bedell suggests that

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.

I can't help thinking of Leela Seth on the Indian Law Reform Commission.

Of course, it's also important that the son was out. One is reminded of the verdict Bowers v Hardwick that might not have been had the swing judge's clerk not been closeted.
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