‘First gay rights activist’ Antony Grey dies aged 82

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Gay rights activist and author Antony Grey has died aged 82.

Mr Grey, born Anthony Edgar Gartside Wright, had been ill for several years with leukaemia and died at King Edward VII Hospital in London on Friday April 30th.

He is regarded as Britain’s first gay rights activist and was instrumental in forcing the government to push through the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which paved the way for modern law reform.

He began campaigning for gay equality in 1958, when he joined the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which campaigned to change laws which criminalised gay men.

He later became secretary of the Albany Trust, a charity set up to help gay men who had developed psychological problems after being persecuted.

Mr Grey also wrote several books, such as Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation, Speaking of Sex and Speaking Out: Sex, Law, Politics and Society.

Later in life, he was involved in counselling and training work and joined the executive committee of the British Association for Counselling.

Mr Grey had lived with his partner Eric Thompson for 50 years, even at a time when it was considered dangerous for gay couples to share a house.

Mr Thompson described his death as the “end of an era” and recalled how things had changed from the early 1960s.

He said: “One night, when we were living in Hampstead, there was an almighty crash, as though the chimney had fallen down. A coach had crashed into several houses.

“But the first thing we did was not to call the police – it was to make up a spare bed, because you knew that when the police came round they would have been far more interested in our sleeping arrangements than the crash.”

Mr Thompson added: “I don’t think the younger generation realises how things were in those days.”

Fellow gay rights campaigner Andrew Lumsden, who had known Mr Grey since the age of nine, said: “I was one of his oldest friends and he was an extraordinarily brave man.

“His work paved the way for the Gay Liberation Front, which is 40 this year, OutRage!, Stonewall and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.”

Alan Horsfall, the life president of Campaign for Homosexual Equality, said: “He’ll be much missed, he did a lot of valuable work.

“He kept things going when it looked like the Wolfenden report might disappear into the dustbin of history. He was a one-man reform movement prior to 1967. He kept the flag flying almost single-handedly.”

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill also paid tribute to Mr Grey: “Everyone at Stonewall is terribly saddened to hear of Antony’s death.

“He was a real hero for gay equality and was genuinely very brave but he was also someone who never sought publicity for his own sake.

“And all of Britain’s 3.6 million lesbians and gay men owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”

Before he died, Mr Grey requested that no funeral or memorial be held for him.