LibLink: Vince Cable on the battle for LGBT+ rights


This week Vince Cable marked the 50th Anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with an article in Pink News. He remembers the social context in which the changes happened.

The period that saw the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 left a powerful impression on me. It was around this time that I returned to the UK from Kenya with my now late wife, Olympia. She was Indian, and we arrived in a Britain snarling with the racism of Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech. Intolerance was not merely tolerated by the state, but enforced by it, with immigrants, women and of course members of the LGBT+ community discriminated against in a way that is hard now to fully understand.

But it was also a time of social change, even ferment. My colleague David Steel piloted an act that legalised abortion that same year. And gay people could finally have sex without fear of prosecution (provided they were both 21 or over, and it was in private).

Looking back, the sheer level of bigotry is shocking. Even many supporters of the reform referred to homosexuality as a “disability”. By 1974, the number of arrests for gay “offences” had actually increased. It was not until 2001, after a defeat in the European Court of Human Rights, that the Labour government was forced to repeal the criminalisation of “homosexual acts”.

 He then looks at the Liberal Democrat record.

We were the first party to commit to equalising the age of consent, to have LGBT people serving in the military and to legalise same-sex marriage. Plus, you could throw in gender recognition, PrEP on the NHS, ending the spousal veto, as well as inclusive, appropriate sex and relationship education, the offering of asylum to vulnerable LGBT+ people, and the ending of deportation to countries where minorities face persecution.

I was particularly proud recently when the Liberal Democrats forced on the government a pardon for Alan Turing … The Lib Dem hope is that by gaining a pardon for such a great British figure, the government will now feel pressured to pardon the 75,000 others prosecuted for “homosexual acts” (49,000 of whom died having been branded criminals). That campaign continues.

He concludes:

But as those campaigners for gay rights reminded us, there are battles to be fought on sexuality, gender and race, as the recent shocking increase in hate crime reminds us. And I am increasingly troubled by problems around generational unfairness.

We live in a Britain that is fairer, kinder and more accepting than the one I returned to half a century ago – but be under no illusions, there is much more work to do.

You can read the full article here.

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This entry was posted in LibLink.


  • Richard Cripps 29th Jul '17 - 5:38pm

    Vince Cable refers to battles to be fought on sexuality, gender, race and generational unfairness. As with many other politicians, he omits to mention the shocking discrimination that also still occurs in relation to disabled people and employment. The government (including the one he was a member of) has changed the benefit system to “encourage/force” disabled people into work. Oh that employers would give them a chance! If he was to speak to some disabled people, he would know the torrid time that many have even getting an interview, never mind a job offer. The unemployment rate among disabled people is at least twice the national average. If that was the case in the groups Vince mentions, there would rightly be a national outcry. Sadly disabled people don’t seem to have the same media and political profile as many other groups in society. For the record, I do not have a disability myself, but have worked with people in this situation for many years.

  • Bill Fowler 30th Jul '17 - 6:49am

    I hope that if Vince gets the chance to introduce the citizens income, replacing the benefits system and personal tax allowance, then he will link it to good citizenship, that is fine people (including children) part of it for acting in an anti-social way with regards to anti-gay behavior, bullying in school, littering etc – in a way replacing Singapore’s cane with a much more civilized fine on the citizen’s income, emphasizing that it is not without responsibilities. Nothing like hitting people’s pocket to get them to think things through. BTW, you would think that a super macho male would be happy that the more gay men there are the more women he has available.

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Jul '17 - 2:04pm

    Bill I’m glad that you have been commenting on various posts but I find the last sentence in the one above completely unacceptable.

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