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Civil Partnership

Date:25 APR 2010

BARONESS RUTH DEECH Gresham Professor of Law

It has been estimated that some 5% of the population is gay. From the Buggery Act 1533 until 1861 some homosexual activity (albeit always limited to men) carried the death penalty. We recall the famous case of the Marquess of Queensberry whose accusations against Oscar Wilde led to the latter's being charged and convicted in 1895 to 2 years' hard labour. Only half a century ago homosexual activity was still a crime. In 1953 2 267 men were prosecuted for homosexual offences; in 1956 118 out of 300 convicted men who were in a consenting relationship were sent to prison. In those 50 years or so homosexuality has moved from criminal status to legalisation from legalisation to acceptance and equal respect with heterosexual relationships. (On this history see S Cretney Same Sex Relationships (OUP 2006)). Liberalisation came as ever in the form of a report by a member of the establishment in that period when so much changed the late 1950s and the legislative reform period of the 1960s. The...

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