The Bolton Seven

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Candle-light vigil for the Bolton 7 | Undated | Outrage | 14353

The Bolton 7 were gay and bisexual men convicted on 12 January 1998 at Bolton Crown Court of gross indecency under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and of age of consent offences under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

While gay sex between two men was decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the seven were convicted under section 13 of the 1956 Act because group sex was still illegal. One of the men convicted was also six months under the statutory age of consent for gay sex (18) at the time.

Equivalent heterosexual behaviour was not a crime.

The offences came to light when police seized videos of the men having sex.

During sentencing on 20 February 1998 Gary Abdie, David Godfrey, Mark Love, Jonathan Moore and Craig Turner were given probation and community service orders. The Judge gave Norman Williams a two-year suspended prison sentence and Terry Connell received a nine-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £500 towards the cost of the prosecution, which is estimated to have cost £500,000.

Moore, Williams and Connell were also required to sign the Sex Offenders Register for the age of consent offences committed with Turner.

There was a huge campaign to prevent the men being given custodial sentences. The campaign was successful.

Six of the men appealed to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecutions against them had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by interfering with ‘the right to respect for a private family life’ enshrined in article 8 of the Convention.

They won and were awarded compensation. As Williams was not part of the litigation, he did not receive compensation.

The law has radically changed since the case. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalised the age of consent for sex, now 16 for both heterosexuals and gays. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 changed the way sexual offences are dealt with by the police and courts, replacing many of the 1956 provisions. The offences of gross indecency and buggery have been repealed. Sexual activity between more than two men is no longer a crime in the UK.


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Allan Horsfall dies

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Allan Horsfall | Public domain | 14354

Gay Activist is sad to learn of the death of a major figure in British gay history, Allan Horsfall, who has died at the age of 84. With Colin Harvey, he set up the Homosexual Law Reform Committee, one of Britain’s first gay rights groups, in 1964. It became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Horsfall was also a Labour party politician.

Peter Tatchell said: “Allan was arguably the grandfather of the modern gay rights movement in Britain. We all walk in Allan’s shadow. He was active in LGBT campaigning until a few months before his death. Allan deserves a Queer State Funeral.”

George Broadhead, a veteran LGBT campaigner and humanist, said: ‘Like another prominent gay Humanist Anthony Grey who died in 2010, Allan made an invaluable contribution to the campaign for LGBT rights. Very few people nowadays have heard of him. But in those days to put your head above the parapet was very brave. He got into a great deal of trouble with the Labour Party for getting involved in gay rights but somebody has got to start these things.”

Ray Gosling said: “Allan’s contribution to gay rights is he invented it. Allan was the founder of it all and a great inspiration to me and a lovely, lovely friend. He had a wonderful life until really his last few days.”

Even after homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain in 1967, Horsfall continued his campaigning work, in 1998 he worked on the case of the Bolton Seven, a group of men who had sex with each other and got prosecuted because, although homosexuality was legal, group sex between men was not; the last major case before British sexual offences laws were completely reviewed and equalized for gay and straight people – with the exception of sex in public toilets which remains criminal, and is mainly targeted at men who have sex with men.

There was a Humanist funeral ceremony at Overdale Crematorium, Bolton, England on 6 September 2012.

Gay Activist sends condolences to family, friends and colleagues.


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The Queen Boat, Cairo

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Rainbows will shine | 14355

In 2001, 52 men who were arrested aboard a floating gay nightclub called the Queen Boat, which was moored on the Nile in Cairo. Of the 52 accused, who became internationally known as the “Cairo 52”, 29 were acquitted; 23 were convicted for “habitual debauchery” under Law 10 of 1961 on the Combat of Prostitution and defaming Islam. All 52 men had pleaded innocent but they were sentenced to up to five years prison with hard labour. The trial was held in a state security court, allowing no appeal.

Dr. Essam Elarian, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, expressed a common opinion. “From my religious view, all the religious people, in Christianity, in Judaism, condemn homosexuality,” he told the BBC. “It is against the whole sense in Egypt. The temper in Egypt is against homosexuality.”

The event drew international intrigue, with media exclusives that revealed the men were subjected to beatings and forensic examinations to “prove their homosexuality.” One Queen Boat eyewitness told the BBC in 2002: “The police told the man to take down his trousers. They wanted to see if he was wearing typical Egyptian underwear – baggy white cotton. If he was not, they said he must be a homosexual. He failed the test.”


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Thom Gunn

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Thom Gunn | The Poetry Foundation | 14356

Thomson William Gunn was born in Gravesend, Kent on 29 August 1929 and died of acute polysubstance abuse, including methamphetamine in San Francisco, USA on 25 April 2004. Both of his parents were journalists, and they divorced when he was 10 years old. During the second world war he was evacuated to the countryside. His life was marked by tragedy when, as a teenager, his mother committed suicide. After relocating from England first to Stanford College, US in 1954 and then in 1960 to Haight Ashbury, San Francisco, Gunn, openly gay, wrote about gay-related topics — particularly in his most famous work, The Man With Night Sweats, in 1992, as well as drug use, sex, and topics related to his bohemian lifestyle. He won numerous major literary awards.

Thom Gunn | Arizona University | 14357


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Lou Sullivan

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Louis Graydon Sullivan | Trans oral history | 14358

Louis Graydon Sullivan was born on 16 June 1951 and died on 2 March 1991. Lou was born Sheila Jean Sullivan, and was known for his work on behalf of trans men, and for founding Female to Male International. He argued that sexual orientation and gender identity are totally unrelated. He was also a highly regarded writer.

Sullivan grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to San Francisco with his partner. In 1986, after completed trans surgery, he was diagnosed with HIV, and died of AIDS in 1991, aged 39.

Sullivan wrote the first guidebook for female to male persons, and other books, and was a founding member and board member of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. His personal and activist papers are preserved by the society.


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The trial of Jeremy Thorpe

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Jeremy Thorpe | Uncredited Photo/Independent | 14359

Jeremy Thorpe, politician, was the flamboyant leader of the UK Liberal Party. He was brought down by allegations of homosexuality, which he denied, and conspiracy. His political career was damaged when an acquaintance, Norman Scott, claimed to have had a love affair with him during the years when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain. He was tried at the Old Bailey for the attempted murder of Norman Scott. Thorpe denied the charges and was acquitted of them all on 22 June 1979, shortly after losing his seat in the general election. The case is a graphic demonstration of how allegations of a person’s sexuality can cost them their job, livelihood and reputation.

Gay groups demonstrated at the Trial, claiming that homosexuality was being portrayed in an unfair light. Mr Thorpe did not appear best pleased.

Mr Thorpe has never made a public statement about his sexuality, and is still alive; he is known to suffer from Parkinsons’ Disease. Thorpe first married interior decorator Caroline Allpass (1938-–1970) in May 1968. Their son Rupert was born in 1969. Caroline Thorpe was killed in a car crash in June 1970. Thorpe then married Marion Stein in 1973. She is the former wife of the 7th Earl of Harewood, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Rumours about Thorpe’s sexuality dogged his political career. Norman Scott met Thorpe in 1961 while working as a stable lad. He later claimed that he and Thorpe had had a homosexual relationship between 1961 and 1963, when homosexual acts were still illegal in Britain. The claims led to an inquiry within the Liberal Party in 1971, which exonerated Thorpe but did not quieten Scott.

In October 1975 Andrew Newton collected Norman Scott from where he was living in North Devon, and drove him to Porlock Hill, Exmoor where they stopped and got out of the car. Newton then shot Scott’s dog Rinka, a Great Dane, before turning the gun on Scott. When the case came before Exeter Crown court in March 1976, Scott said that the gun jammed and that Newton then drove off, leaving him alone beside the dead dog. Newton always maintained that his intention was only to frighten Scott, who, he alleged, possessed incriminating photographs of Newton. Newton was convicted for the illegal possession of a firearm and an intent to endanger life.

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During his court appearance, Scott (left) repeated his claims of a relationship with Thorpe, and alleged that Thorpe had threatened to kill him if he spoke about their affair. Scott also sold letters to the press which he claimed to be love letters from Thorpe. One of these included the memorable line “Bunnies can and will go to France”, which supposedly showed Thorpe using his ‘pet-name’ for Scott in connection with a promise to find Scott a well-paid job in France. Thorpe was forced to resign as Liberal Party leader on 9 May 1976.

Thorpe faced trial at Number One Court, the Old Bailey on 8 May 1979, one week after losing his Parliamentary seat. He was charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. One chief prosecution witnesses was Peter Bessell, who claimed to have been present while the murder plot was discussed within the Liberal Party. Bessell agreed to appear as a witness in exchange for immunity from prosecution. His credibility was damaged because he had sold his story to The Sunday Telegraph for a fee that would double from £25,000 to £50,000 if the prosecution was successful.

Thorpe did not testify but his counsel, led by George Carman QC, argued that although he and Scott had been friends, there had been no sexual relationship. Carman claimed that Scott had sought to blackmail Thorpe, and that although Thorpe and his friends had discussed “frightening” Scott into silence, they had never conspired to kill him.

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After 15 hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict of Not Guilty. The four defendants were all acquitted.


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The Advocate

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The Advocate | Media Bistro | 14362

The Advocate is an American monthly magazine which was established in 1967, and is the oldest continuing gay publication in the United States. The Advocate was first published as a local newsletter by the activist group PRIDE in Los Angeles. The newsletter was inspired by a police raid on Los Angeles gay bar the Black Cat Tavern. Richard Mitch (“Dick Michaels”) and Bill Rau (“Bill Rand”), Aristide Laurent and Sam Winston transformed the newsletter into a newspaper titled The Los Angeles Advocate. The first issue bore a cover date of September 1967.

The recession is affecting the revenues of all gay publications and The Advocate also appears to have been affected.


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The oldest gay man in Wisconsin

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Ken Fells | Wisconsin Gazette | 14363

Gay Activist congratulates Ken Fells who recently celebrated his 100th birthday. The oldest known living gay man in Milwaukee, he contacted SAGE Milwaukee, and they connected him to an LGBT community that didn’t existed for the vast majority of his life. At a July 28 SAGE ice cream social and garden party, Mr Fells recounted how he wasn’t aware of any gay life in Milwaukee when he was a young man. He always hoped to move to Chicago, where there was more freedom, but it never worked out. He remembers the house he grew up in on Milwaukee’s South Side – he even recalls the address. It’s in the vicinity of what is now the gay nightclub La Cage.

Fells does not feel safe being out in the long-term care facility where he resides due to the number of fundamentalist Christian residents. He has a couple of friends there, but the connections are nothing like those he feels with fellow SAGE members. He requires a walker to move about and his mind is slowing down. His memories are mostly dim and only recalled with effort. His speech is slow, soft and child-like.

Most of his memories are from childhood. He doesn’t remember much about his work life, which was in blue-collar jobs. Fells’ fondest recollection is of riding on the engine of a steam locomotive from West Bent to Milwaukee. Despite living in the closet and never making that move to Chicago that he dreamed of, Fells said he looks back on his century on the planet without regret. “I think I’ve had a pretty interesting life,” he said. “And when I go to parties and things like today, it makes me happy.”

Congratulations, Sir.


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From criminals to citizens

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Eric (Standing) with Michael and Ken. Ken Pemble | DW | 14364

In 1967, male homosexuality in the UK was partially decriminalized by the Sexual Offences Act. D-W spoke to gay men in the UK about how their lives have changed.

There are some interesting life stories in this article; like Ken, now 73, retired and living near Brighton. He moved to London. “I was gonna get lost in the big city because I couldn’t cope with trying to be normal in this small village.” Ken moved to London in 1959. Like others before him, he arrived with no job, accommodation, or acquaintances. He met his lifelong friends, Eric and Michael, when the two advertised for a room.

“Ken was a country boy who didn’t know a lot about London life … He thought it was nice to meet people of his own kind,” Eric said. To unsuspecting neighbors, the three friends were just like other young people in London who shared accommodation. “You could live in London and be yourself – nobody took an interest in you,” Michael said.

Men who were were caught by police had their names published by local, and sometimes national, newspapers. Underground gay bars, pubs and clubs sprung up, creating opportunities and dangers. “Now some of the people were really rough – they were not gay, they were there to rob you,” Michael said. Russ, a friend of the three flatmates, was assaulted by another man, but he did not report the crime out of a fear that he would be outed.


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Leonard Matlovich

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Leonard P. Matlovich | Time Cover | 14365

Leonard P. Matlovich was born on July 6, 1943 and died on June 22, 1988. He was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Matlovich made history by becoming the first gay service member of US forces to out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays. In the 1970s he and Harvey Milk were the best known gay men in America.

The gay community rallied behind his fight to stay in the USAF. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. Matlovich was the first openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine.

In October 2006, Matlovich was honoured as a leader in the history of the LGBT community .
A Mormon and church elder, Matlovich found himself at odds with the church, and their opposition to homosexual behavior. He was twice excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for homosexual acts.

In 1986 Matlovich was diagnosed with HIV/Aids. Typical of the man, he was among the first patients to try a newly developed treatment, AZT.

His grave at the Congressional Cemetery does not prominently bear his name. The inscription reads: “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” His grave is in the same row as that of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.


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