History of homosexuality
Page last modified 24/3/2020
For world map of dates of legalisation of abortion, same sex marriage.
17/5/2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. At this time Israel recognised gay marriages conducted elsewhere but they could not be performed in Israel. Homosexuality could be punished by death in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The taboos against homosexuality were slowly vanishing in Vietnam and Nepal. In Africa, South Africa was the only African country where same sex marriage was legal. In Suda, Somalia and Mauretania, gay people faced the death penalty. A small number of African countries, including Congo (DR), Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mali and Mozambique, did not have laws against homosexuality.
9/2018, India legalised gay sex.
2017, Support for same-sex marriage in the USA was 64%, a rapid rise from just 27% in 1996,
7/12/2017, The Australian Parliament legalised same-sex marriage, a month after a referendum showed strong support for the move.
11/2016, A planned referendum on whether same sex marriage should be allowed in Australia was blocked by the upper house of Parliament.
6/2015, With same sex marriages still illegal in 14 States of the US, a Supreme Court decision legalised same sex marriages in all parts of the USA.
23/5/2015, Ireland voted by a margin of 2:1 to legalise gay marriage. The result, 1,201,607 YES votes against 734,300 NO, was remarkable in a strongly Catholic country. The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said the Church may have become disconnected with young people, and ruled out gay marriages in Catholic churches.
10/2014, Estonia became the first former Soviet republic to legalise civil partnerships.
29/3/2014, Same-sex marriages became legal in England and Wales.
24/12/2013, Alan Turing, the mathematician who broke the Nazi codes during World War Two but who was convicted of gross indecency for a homosexual act with a man in 1952, was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II. He was given chemical castration but his criminal record meant he could no longer work for GCHQ and he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning in 1954, aged 41. Prominent figures including Stephen Hawking and Peter Tatchell had been campaigning for a pardon for several years.
17/4/2013, Same sex marriage was legalised in New Zealand.
2/4/2013, Uruguay legalised same-sex marriages.
7/11/2012, Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington approved same sex marriages.
17/8/2012, Moscow banned any Gay Pride events for the next 100 years.
7/3/2012, The UN presented its report on violations of the human rights of gay people worldwide. Representatives of several African and Arab States walked out.
2009, Mexico legalised same-sex marriages. Civil unions between same-sex couples had been legalised there in 2007.
1/2007, In the UK, the House of Lords upheld legislation banning discrimination against homosexuals.
5/12/2005, In the UK, the Civil Partnership Act came into force; this gave same sex partnerships the same legal status as heterosexual marriages.
1/12/2005, South Africa became the fifth country in the world to recognise same-sex marriages.
24/8/2005, A Hong Kong Judge, Michael Hartmann, ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional.
20/7/2005, Canada’s Civil Marriage Act, legalising same-sex marriages, received Royal Assent.
30/6/2005, Spain joined Belgium and The Netherlands in permitting same-sex marriages.
18/11/2004, In the UK, the Civil Partnership Bill, allowing registered unions for same-sex couples, received Royal Assent.
17/5/2004, Massachusetts legalised same-sex marriages, in compliance with a ruling from the state’s Supreme Court.(Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health).
2/3/2002, The 24th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was held in Australia.
2001, The British Virgin Islands legalised gay sex.
8/1/2001, In the UK the House of Commons overruled the House of Lords, which had blocked an equalisation of the Age of Consent for homosexuals with heterosexuals. Homosexual sex had been illegal in the UK until 1967 when the Sexual Offences Act made it legal for people aged 21 and above. This age was lowered to 18 in 1994, and to 16 in 2001, under a policy commitment by Tony Blair’s New Labour Government.
1/4/2001, In The Netherlands, same-sex marriages were made legal. This was the first time such marriages had been legal there since the time of Nero.
3/3/2001, The 23rd Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was held in Australia.
25/4/2000, The State of Vermont passed the HB847 law legalising civil unions for same-sex couples
10/2/1998, Voters in Maine repealed a gay rights law made in 1997, becoming the first US State to abandon such a law.
1997, China abolished criminal penalties for homosexual acts.
1/5/1997. Tasmania became the last Australian State to decriminalise homosexuality.
19/12/1994, Civil unions between homosexuals were made legal in Sweden.
21/2/1994, In Britain, Parliament voted to lower the age of consent for homosexuals from 21 to 18.
19/1/1994, Jane Brown, headmistress of a school in Hackney, London, barred pupils from seeing Romeo and Juliet because it was ‘too heterosexual’.
24/6/1993, Ireland legalised gay sex with an equal age of consent as for homosexuals, 17.
1991, The Bahamas legalised gay sex.
1989, Denmark became the first country to legalise same-sex marriages.
24/5/1988, In the UK, the controversial Section 28 law was passed. This made the promotion of homosexuality in schools illegal.
1979, Cuba legalised gay sex.
11/7/1977. British magazine Gay News was fined £1,000 for publishing a poem about a homosexual Jesus.
27/11/1970. The Gay Liberation Front marched in London for the first time.
6/1969, A riot began when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a venue frequented by homosexuals, in Greenwich Village, New York City.
27/71967, In the UK, the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality. Two men could have sex together if they were above the age of 21.
1966, Illinois became the first US State to legalise sodomy.
18/11/1962. Bishop Ambrose Reeves encouraged Oxford students to write to their MPs urging them to repeal the laws on homosexuality.
4/9/1957. In the UK, the Wolfenden Report recommended decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults. This would remove a significant cause of blackmail. ‘Adult’ meant aged 21 or over; some feared this would be a licence for child abuse. On 14/11/1957 the Church of England backed the Wolfenden reforms. However the UK government shied away from this controversial change to the law. It was only in June 1967 when the Sexual Offences Bill legalised such homosexual acts as Wolfenden recommended.
1952, In the UK, Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency and chemically castrated.
31/10/1940, Craig Rodwell, gay rights activist, was born in Chicago, Illinois (died 1993).
6/1935, In Nazi Germany, penalties for homosexuality were toughened. All such acts became punishable by imprisonment with a possible extra ten years for any aggravating circumstances, for example corruption of the young, or prostitution.
3/1934, A decree was issued in the USSR requiring all the Republics to enact laws criminalising homosexual acts between males. The original 1926 penal code of post-Revolutionary Russia had made no mention of homosexuality. As a ‘social crime’ along with banditry, espionage, sabotage, and counter-Revolutionary activity, homosexuality was now punishable by 3 – 5 years imprisonment,
1897, The first organisation to promote homosexual rights was set up, in Germany. It lasted until the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
19/5/1897, Oscar Wilde was released from Reading gaol.
25/5/1895, Oscar Wilde’s second trial ended, and he was sentenced to two year’s hard labour.
26/4/1895. At the Old Bailey, the trial of Oscar Wilde for homosexuality, then a crime, began.
5/4/1895, Oscar Wilde sued the Marquess of Queensberry for libel at the Old Bailey. The Marquess was alleged to have left a note at Mr Wilde’s club accusing him of sodomy. The Marquess, keen on boxing, was annoyed that his son, Alfred, had an intimate relationship with Mr Wilde. Oscar Wilde lost his case.
1885, In the UK, the Labouchere Amendment, promoted by Henry Labouchere, Liberal MP for Northempton and strong opponent of homosexuality, made ‘gros indecnecy’ a crime under section 11 of the 1885 Criminal Law Ameddment Act. Known as the ‘blackmailer’s Charter, this Amendment was often used to prosecute homosexuals where no actual intercourse could be proved.
1861, In the UK, the Offences Against the Person Act repealed the death penalty for sodomy and bestiality. The maximum sentence was reduced to life imprisonment; there was a minimum sentence of ten years. This was part of Robert Peel’s reforms.
1804, Haiti became an independent state; it has never had laws against gay sex.
1533, In England, the Buggery Act was passed by Parliament under Henry VIII, making sodomy and bestiality criminal offences punishable by death. See 1861.
15/8/1 BC, Death of Emperor Ai of China. Famously, he cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than awaken his male lover; hence the Chinese expression ‘cut-sleeve-love’.
590 BC, The female Greek poet Sappho was writing about love on the Greek island of Lesbos.