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July 27, 2017 12:00 AM

This year Liberal Democrats celebrate a more open liberal society, with same-sex couples able to marry and now huge steps forward for gender recognition.

The Liberal Party were the first party to host a gay rights fringe at party conference, and the first party to commit in a manifesto to equal rights - from equal age of consent, to serving in the military, to same-sex marriage to gender recognition Liberals and Liberal Democrats have led on this issue for decades. And on issues such as PrEP on the NHS; ending the spousal veto; inclusive, appropriate Sex and Relationship Education in schools; offering asylum and ending deportation to at risk countries we continue to lead into the future.

Jennie Rigg, Chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems said: "When we look back, even those supporting decriminalisation called homosexuality 'a disability' and 'a great weight of shame'. Bisexuals didn't even occur to them. Goddess knows what they'd think of all the diversity of sexuality we share today! It shows us how far we've come, how hard that fight has been, and how much further we still have to go."

The Sexual Offences Act, 1967 received Royal Assent on 27 July fifty years ago.

The Act was sponsored by Labour MP Leo Abse and Conservative Peer Lord Arran, and supported by Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, who went on to be a founder of the Liberal Democrats

Coming 10 years after the Wolfenden Report had concluded that criminal law could not credibly intervene in the private sexual affairs of consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, this Act did not legalise gay sex, but introduced an exemption from prosecution for men over the age of 21 having sex in private.

Men who have sex with men continued to be prosecuted for the remainder of the twentieth century, particularly for sex in public places ("cruising" and "cottaging") and under the unequal age of consent.

It was not until 2003, after losing a case in the European Court of Human Rights, that the then Labour government were compelled to repeal the criminalisation of homosexual acts.

Richard Flowers, Treasurer of LGBT+ said: "the '67 Act was not the beginning of LGBT liberation, and its eventual repeal was not the end. But it was a landmark. A step on the road out of oppression to the huge surge of acceptance seen in the last few years. We cannot forget the bravery of the people who walked that path for us."