Gay rights champion dies

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The former Labour MP who was instrumental in the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act has died.

Leo Abse died at Charing Cross Hospital, London last night, aged 91.

Mr Abse, formerly Labour MP for Pontypool and Torfaen, guided the Sexual Offences Act through Parliament, which decriminalised sex between men aged 21 and over.

Mr Abse also helped to liberalise divorce laws through the 1969 Divorce Reform Act.

Torfaen Council leader Bob Wellington told BBC News:

“Leo Abse was small in stature but he was an intellectual giant.

“He was a great parliamentarian who championed the rights of his constituents for nearly 30 years with a passion and tenacity that left its mark on the borough and right across the UK through significant legal reform.”

Katie Hanson, Co-chair of LGBT Labour said:

“It was with sadness that we learned of the death of Leo Abse, the former MP for
Pontypool and Torfaen.

“The leadership he showed while serving as a Labour MP will not be forgotten by the lesbian and gay community.

“Bringing about the Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised sex between men aged 21 and over, was an extraordinarily brave political act in 1967.

“Leo Abse’s groundbreaking work paved the way for Labour to deliver full legal
equality for lesbians and gay men.

“He will be remembered fondly by LGBT rights activists.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said:

“Leo Abse will be remembered by the gay community with a mixture of appreciation and disappointment.

“Although gay people felt huge relief following the passage of his 1967 gay law reform, we were also angry because his bill perpetuated the criminalisation of many aspects of gay life.

“It was not the liberation that many of us had wanted and expected.

“His homosexual law reform bill decriminalised sex between men, but only in narrow circumstances.

“It retained many discriminatory provisions, such as the unequal age of consent of 21.

“These inequalities were not finally repealed until 2003.”