“The pimps, the prostitutes, the spivs, the pansies, and now, the queers”: A short history of anti-gay prejudice


Opposition to equality for gay, lesbian and bisexual people is nothing new.

Gay menThe difference today is the language. Not so long ago, MPs were willing to stand up in the House of Commons and liken gay people to “pimps”, “prostitutes” and “spivs”.

Homosexuality was deemed “uncivilised”, and love between consenting adults was labelled a “perversion”.

Here, then, are a few choice quotes from those MPs and peers who have in the past opposed efforts to bring about gay equality:

On the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalising homosexual acts between two men:

Sir Cyril Osborne, Conservative MP for Leicestershire:

“I am rather tired of democracy being made safe for the pimps, the prostitutes, the spivs, the pansies and now, the queers. It is high time that we ordinary squares had some public attention and our point of view listened to.”

Humphrey Berkeley, Conservative MP for Lancashire:

“If, as would appear to be the case, the homosexual condition is a form of emotional retardedness—and this is the most accurate description one can put on it—people who are vulnerable to pressures during adolescence must be protected.”

On Section 28 (Local Government Act 1988) preventing local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”:

Harry Greenway, Conservative MP for Ealing North:

“Only last week I received complaints in my surgery from parents who said that a homosexual recently appointed to a school makes up his face in school in front of the children, and they object to that.”

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman, Conservative MP for Lancaster:

“I do not regard the practice of sodomy or buggery as being civilised.”

On the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalising the age of consent to 16 for both gay and straight partners:

Antony Marlow, Conservative MP for Northampton North:

“I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She is seeking to persuade hon. Members to vote to legalise the buggery of adolescent males. Does she think that that is what our constituents have sent us here to do?”

Labour peer Lord Longford:

“I cannot believe that there are many parents who prefer their son to be homosexual rather than inclined to favour women. It is contrary to the male nature.”

Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill 2013:

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London:

“If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.”

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London:

“We don’t want our children being taught some rubbish about homosexual marriage is the same as normal marriage.”

Del Thomas, Conservative Party candidate for Victoria in the 2012 local elections:

“@GABaines: If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get married.” Del Thomas: Silly argument. I don’t like peadophiles should we allow them too?

MPs will vote at 7pm tonight on whether to allow same-sex marriage. Check out Left Foot Forward’s five reasons why conservatives should back gay marriage.

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  • Sam

    One of those Boris comments is spot on – there is no reason why three consenting adults in a polygamous relationship shouldn’t be able to declare themselves next of kin. One can come up with arguments that there is something special about the coupling of one man and one woman, as (modulo contraception and infertility) it produces children. But there is no earthly reason to privilege the relationship between two men over a relationship between three men, or any other number of consenting adults.

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