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In the autumn of 1961, Labour backbench MP Leo Abse tabled the first Sexual Offences Bill for Parliamentary consideration. It sought not to decriminalise homosexuality but advocated more lenient sentencing in accordance with stringent psychiatric reporting. When debating the bill in March 1962, his introductory speech spoke of preventing the witch hunting of homosexual men through the scurrilous practice of blackmail that was becoming a scourge on society.
Despite Abse’s forthright oration, the debate lasted less than an hour and the motion lapsed without a vote taking place. The attitude of his fellow Parliamentarians had changed little since the subject was last discussed in the previous decade. In an atmosphere of obstinate indifference, one MP deemed the bill, ‘Wolfenden watered down’. However, the reformers were not deflated by this failure and were determined that their campaign would remain in the public consciousness and their programme for legislative change would eventually prevail
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