Alex Harvey on the legalisation of homosexuality
If homosexuals are what they are because of birth or through early environment, and are not in themselves deliberately vicious men, they should not be punished. To punish in such circumstances is to persecute, to persecute a minority, to persecute as others have persecuted Jews and Negroes.
Lord Arran, House of Lords, 12 May 1965
Vol. 19 No. 19 · 2 October 1997
Alex Harvey rightly says that ‘Boofy’ Arran’s key role in launching the Parliamentary campaign for homosexual law reform in the Sixties, and his persistence in making its ultimate success possible, have not been given the recognition they deserve (LRB, 18 September). But he goes astray in thinking that the Homosexual Law Reform Society was bankrolled by David Astor or any other individual or small group. Mr Astor was a generous donor from time to time, as were others – but there was no assured income for the Society throughout my time as its secretary, and raising sufficient funds to keep it going, even during the height of the Parliamentary campaign, was a constant headache. What Mr Astor did do, for which I shall always be grateful to him, was to employ me as a Saturday sub-editor on the Observer (which he then edited) throughout the campaign, so that by working a six-day week I was able to keep my own head (just about) above water, as well as that of the HLRS.
Nor was the HLRS ‘staffed almost entirely by gay volunteers’ while ‘homosexuality was never mentioned.’ It would have been difficult to carry on a campaign if the latter had been the case. For several years, I thought and talked about little else. In fact, the HLRS under my direction had a paid full-time female staff of never less than two, and usually (when we could afford it) more. Our many volunteers were welcome and valuable, but never as central as my loyal and overworked staff, whose huge contribution is also largely forgotten, nowadays, except by me.