I've just noticed that it's fifty years to the day that Sir John Wolfenden, the Vice-Chancellor of my alma mater, Reading University, published his famous report recommending that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should no longer be a criminal offence. These words from the report should not be forgotten: "It is not ... the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour". Despite support from the BMA, the Howard League, the National Association of Probation Officers and even the Archbishop of Canterbury, the government rejected the proposal and it was another ten years before the law permitted sexual relations between adults over the age of twenty-one.
That, of course, was not the end of the story. It was not until 2000 that the age of consent for gay men was brought into line with that for heterosexuals, and not until 2004 that the Civil Partnership Act was passed, allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, which are similar to, but still not the same as, marriage.