Title: History: 1533 and All That Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 12th March 2006 - 12:00pm1142118000 Article: 1151 Rights
When homosexuality was criminalised under secular law for the first time in Great Britain, it was under Henry VIII of England in 1533. Therein lies a curious tale. Before 1533, the Catholic Church held sway, imposing penances and fines for laymen who committed 'sodomy,' and sacking errant clergy. However, Henry VIII's matrimonial and succession problems meant that he had divorced his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, because she couldn't provide him with a male heir who survived infancy, and the reigns of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth I were still twenty years in the future. The Catholic Church wouldn't sanction this, so Henry VIII formed the Church of England, with himself at its head. Given that church courts could no longer enforce laws, there needed to be secular legislation in its place. Thus, Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, his then-Chancellor, introduced England's first 'anti-sodomy' legislation, the Buggery Act 1533, which declared gay sex and bestiality to be offences worthy of capital punishment. Thereafter, the legislation had a curious existence. It was repealed, and then amended with removal of property forfeiture clauses, and with safeguards designed to prevent blackmail from unscrupulous relatives, as well as a six month prosecution limit, under Edward VI. Mary repealed the legislation altogether, returning 'sodomy' to church court jurisdiction, while Elizabeth I re-enacted the legislation of her father's time. However, there were few prosecutions during the time of the Tudors, or their Stuart successors. While Baron Walter Hungerford of Haytesbury was executed in 1540, this seems to have been for his suspected treasonous activity in supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace, an abortive Northern English Catholic rebellion, and not for the alleged offence of sodomy per se. While Nicholas Udall, an Eton headmaster, was convicted of sodomy per se in 1541, he was treated leniently, and reinstated at his old position after one year of impirsonment. Unfortunately, the eighteenth century was far more socially conservative, and the Georgian Societies for Reformation of Manners and Suppression of Vice clamoured for the enforcement of this nearly moribind legislation. And thus it would remain, until the nineteenth century saw mitigation of anti-sodomy penalties to imprisonment, and their importation to British colonies, including New Zealand. Recommended: Rictor Norton: "The Medieval Basis of Modern Law" (15 April 2002) History of Homophobia: Craig Young - 12th March 2006    
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