New Publication: Bareback Sex in the Age of Preventative Medication: Rethinking the ‘Harms’ of HIV Transmission

It’s brilliant to share the details of my latest publication which was co-authored with the wonderful Max Morris and Alex Powell. The article is Open Access so it’s also freely available for download.

Ashford C, Morris M, Powell A. Bareback Sex in the Age of Preventative Medication: Rethinking the ‘Harms’ of HIV Transmission. The Journal of Criminal Law. 2020;84(6):596-614. doi:10.1177/0022018320974904

Abstract

The experiences of people living with HIV have been transformed over recent years. Advances in medical science have made the virus a manageable chronic condition, while eliminating the risk of onward transmission for those with access to treatment, something referred to as TasP (treatment as prevention) or U=U (undetectable equals untransmissible). More recently, the availability of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), alongside PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), through the NHS has created the conditions for condomless sexual encounters to take place without the fear of HIV transmission associated with previous decades. Despite this, the criminal law has continued to frame HIV in terms of personal responsibility and bodily autonomy within the dominant narratives of danger, disease, and out-dated science. Doctrinal law has failed to keep pace with social and scientific change. Therefore, in this article, we provide a re-examination of the criminal issues relating to HIV transmission within this new landscape, arguing that it necessitates a shift in attitude, policy and doctrine. We specifically argue that HIV transmission does not meet the appropriate harm threshold to constitute GBH and that if criminal law is ultimately about preventing or regulating harm, the ongoing criminalisation of HIV transmission is counter to that aim.

Keywords Bareback sexgrievous bodily harmHIVPEPPrEPresponsibilityriskTasP

The article can be viewed in HTML form and downloaded as a PDF here.

Media outlets can see a press release supporting the publication here.

PhD Opportunity: Sex Work, Law and Justice

The Gender, Sexuality and Law Research Group at Northumbria has a fully-funded PhD opportunity, led by my wonderful colleague Laura Graham. I’m also proposed as part of the supervisory team. The closing date for applications is 29 January 2021 and the start date for the project is 1 October 2021.

About the Project

Project Rationale and Description

Applications are sought for a full-time PhD student at Northumbria Law School, to research a question on the intersection of the sex work, law, and justice.

Mirroring sex worker campaigns (ECP; SCOTPEP; NUM), official consultations (Home Office, 2004, 2006, 2008; APPG, 2014; HASC, 2016), and wider debates, over the last two decades there has been much academic interest in the legal responses to sex work (Scoular and O’Neill, 2007; Graham, 2017; Munro and Della Giusta (eds), 2008). Much of this work in England and Wales has evaluated the current legal response(s) to sex work, how they impact sex workers’ lives, and how the law might be reformed. There is also significant academic and governmental interest in comparative research looking at legal responses in other jurisdictions (Armstrong and Abel (eds), 2020; Levy, 2014). 

Interest is sought for a project which develops an original approach to the question of sex work, law and justice. Some themes which could be of interest are, inter alia: human rights; social justice; and redistributive justice. Human rights arguments are increasingly significant in debates and campaigns around sex work and its regulation (Graham, forthcoming; Amnesty International, 2016). Research around social and redistributive justice is also increasingly important, especially with significant crises facing the sex industry, such as the aftermath of COVID-19 and Brexit (Fitzgerald and McGarry (eds), 2018). These suggestions are non-exhaustive, and applicants should indicate clearly the proposed focus of their research.

This research project will be conducted within the Gender, Sexuality, and Law Research Group in the Faculty of Business and Law where you will join a rich and thriving research community. Examples of doctoral work that has been undertaken within this group include: same sex relationships and normative expectations; kink pornography and legal consciousness; equality and anti-discrimination law; international law, detention and sexual orientation and gender identity; and dating apps and HIV disclosure.

Applicants should have a good knowledge of the sex industry and its regulation. The research may have an empirical, doctrinal, socio-legal, or comparative focus (feminist and queer perspectives particularly welcome), but you should clearly articulate your proposed approach and methodology. 

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement: 

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF21/BL/LAW/GRAHAM) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 29 January 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

For informal enquiries, please contact Laura Graham (laura.n.graham@northumbria.ac.uk)


Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home students and includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/21, this is £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees. 
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria: 
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or 
• have settled status, or 
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or 
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter. 
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


References

[1]Laura Graham (2017) ‘Governing sex work through crime: creating the context for violence and exploitation’, The Journal of Criminal Law 81(3) 201-216.
[2]Ashford, C and Maine, A. (eds.) (2020) Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law, Edward Elgar.

The Gay Liberation Front is 50

A candlelit vigil is being organised for next week, to mark 50 year since the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). Peter Tatchell writes in an email about the event:

‘Fifty years ago, on 13 October 1970, the Gay Liberation Front was founded at the the London School of Economics.
The formation of GLF was the watershed moment in British LGBT+ history. For the first time, thousands of LGBT+ people came out and protested against our persecutors. GLF’s slogan “Gay is Good” challenged the centuries-old view that gay was bad – and mad and sad.  
The GLF put LGBT+ rights on the public agenda and transformed LGBT+ consciousness, from shame to pride and defiance.’

The event fittingly takes place where it began: LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2B 4RR, 6pm on Tuesday 13 October 2020.

Anyone attending is asked to bring candles, wear face masks, and maintain social distancing.

They’ve also done a short video clip telling you more about GLF which you can check out below.

Feminist Legal Studies: Call for Editorial Board Members

FLSlogo2-600x396Blog readers might be interested in thecurrent call from Feminist Legal Studies for new editorial board members (upto five positions).

Feminist Legal Studies celebrated its 25 year anniversary in 2018. After two decades of operating successfully from Kent Law School, in 2013 the editorial board of the journal was reconstituted from members from a variety of UK universities. The editorial board continues to operate as a collective and to publish interdisciplinary, theoretically engaged feminist scholarship relating to law and legal phenomena.

The full call can be viewed on the Critical Legal Thinking blog  and you can learn more about the journal on their homepage.

Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law

9781788111140One aspect of my life that fell victim to Covid-19 this year was a planned book launch for my new edited collection, co-edited with Alexander Maine at Leicester.  We’re going to give some thought to a re-arranged launch (possibly virtual) at a later part.  There’s something sad about not having the traditional gathering of friends and colleagues, celebrating the amazing work that went into a book, and enjoying some over-priced but quaffable University wine.  This does not however stop me from posting a shameless plug for you to recommend the book for library purchase/or for yourself if you’re feeling flush!   It’s also available as an e-book in these socially distanced times.

I’m seriously excited by the brilliant collection of authors we pulled together for this collection and global nature. It kicks off with the personal and inside story of Wilkinson v Kitzinger and goes on to blend activism and scholarly insights throughout. I hope you enjoy the book, and I’m sure it will appeal to students of family and criminal law in particular as well as anyone interested in gender, sexuality and law scholarship. Here comes the inflated book blurb:

This innovative and thought-provoking Research Handbook explores not only current debates in the area of gender, sexuality and the law but also points the way for future socio-legal research and scholarship. It presents wide-ranging insights and debates from across the globe, including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia, with contributions from leading scholars and activists alongside exciting emergent voices.

Chapters address a range of current arguments and issues, providing an enhanced theoretical framework and evolving understanding from a variety of feminist and queer perspectives. Relationship recognition debates and LGBT activism and scholarship are examined and discussed, as well as questions around bodily autonomy, kink identities, pornography and healthcare access rights. Research exploring the lived experiences of people facing challenges such as domestic violence, asylum, femicide and hate crime is also assessed.

This Research Handbook will be an invaluable resource for researchers and students in the fields of law, sexuality and gender, as well as family studies, sociology, media and cultural studies, and medicine. Activists will also benefit from its scholarly insight into key policy debates and future strategy.

Contents:

1 Introduction to the Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and Law 1
Chris Ashford and Alexander Maine

PART I NEW BOUNDARIES AND ACTIVISM
2 From the litigants’ perspective: Wilkinson v Kitzinger and the pursuit of
marriage equality in England and Wales 8
Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger
3 Formal recognition of adult relationships and legal gender in a comparative
perspective 17
Jens M. Scherpe
4 Diplomacy, conditionality and transnational LGBTI rights 32
Kay Lalor
5 Legislating and litigating same sex marriage in China 45
Tingting Liu and Jingshu Zhu
6 Striking women: the politics of gender, sexuality and the law in South Africa 60
Melanie Judge and Dee Smythe

PART II IDENTITY AND STATE
7 Life at the corner of poverty and sexual abjection: lewdness, indecency,
and LGBTQ youth 76
Libby Adler
8 Same sex marriage and Article 12 of the European Convention on
Human Rights 91
Paul Johnson and Silvia Falcetta
9 LGBTI migration in Europe 104
Alexander Schuster
10 Fully recognizing both dignity and equality values under the emergent
ECHR right to a same sex registered partnership 120
Helen Fenwick and Daniel Fenwick
11 Transgender rights in Europe: EU and Council of Europe movements
towards gender identity equality 134
Peter Dunne

PART III LIVED SOCIETY
12 Normative understandings: sexual identity, stereotypes, and asylum seeking 149
Alex Powell
13 Feminist responses to same sex relationship recognition 164
Rosemary Auchmuty
14 LGBT rights and tax law: a comparative perspective 181
Anthony C. Infanti
15 LGBT rights in Africa 194
Siri Gloppen and Lise Rakner

PART IV BODILY AUTONOMY
16 A perfect storm: the UK government’s failed consultation on the Gender
Recognition Act 2004 211
Stephen Whittle and Fiona Simkiss
17 Becoming a legal proxy: the unintended consequences of informed
consent in US transgender medicine 232
stef m. shuster
18 (De)regulating trans identities 244
Flora Renz
19 ‘That’s a bit of a minefield’: supported decision making in intellectually
disabled people’s intimate lives 256
Rosie Harding and Ezgi Taşcıoğlu
20 Dispute resolution, domestic violence and abuse between lesbian partners 271
Maria Federica Moscati

PART V VIOLENCE AND VULNERABILITY
21 The global femicide problem: issues and prospects 286
Rosemary Barberet and Aneesa A. Baboolal
22 Law, society and domestic violence: ‘best practice’ methodologies for
evaluating integrated domestic violence services 301
Nan Seuffert and Trish Mundy
23 Gender and hate crime protections 317
Marian Duggan
24 Feminist mandated reporters question the Title IX system: when civil
rights programs adopt managerial logics and protect institutional interests 330
Jessica Cabrera
25 Vulnerability, victimhood and sex offences 341
Sharon Cowan and Rebecca Hewer

PART VI DEVIANCY AND ILLICIT CONSTRUCTIONS
26 Kinky identity and practice in relation to the law 362
Ummni Khan
27 Male sex work – a gendered, (hetro)sexist approach to regulation 379
Thomas Crofts
28 Regulating desire in Russia 396
Alexander Kondakov
29 Normative behaviour, moral boundaries and the state 409
Chris Ashford, Alexander Maine and Giuseppe Zago
30 Deviancy and illicit constructions 425
Brian Simpson

PART VII TRANSGRESSIVE BOUNDARIES
31 Masculinities and families: fragmenting law’s ‘family man’ 443
Richard Collier
32 The healthcare rights of people living with HIV and AIDS 457
Matthew Weait
33 Regulating pornography: developments in evidence, theory and law 471
Fiona Vera-Gray and Clare McGlynn
34 Defending pornography: the case against strategic essentialism 484
Alex Dymock
35 Red, white, and BLACK AND BLUE: the American criminalization of BDSM 497
Stephan Ferris

You can purchase the text from all good bookstores and from Edward Elgar direct (might be a bit cheaper).

International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law

Screenshot 2020-08-17 at 13.49.29It’s absolutely brilliant to share the news that there’s a new Gender, Sexuality and Law journal in town. The journal is part of a  growing ‘stable’ of Open Access journals hosted by the Law School at Northumbria University and forms part of the work of our Gender, Sexuality and Law Research Group.  This latest journal is edited by my wonderful colleague Laura Graham.

The International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law is a new inclusive international journal publishing high quality theoretical and empirical research.  The journal aims to advance the knowledge of legal discourses in gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, heterosexual and queer sexualities.

The International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law is a new inclusive international journal publishing high quality theoretical and empirical research.  The journal aims to advance the knowledge of legal discourses in gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, heterosexual and queer sexualities.

The journal also aims to be an inclusive space for radical and progressive academic debate from a range of disciplines, including but not limited to, law, sociology, criminology, history, geography, psychology, media, cultural studies, sexuality and gender studies.  The journal welcomes scholarship of an inter-disciplinary nature.

Journal content takes the form of substantive peer-reviewed articles, or reviews, in the form of books, films or web materials.  In addition, the journal will also include from time to time additional content such as interviews on short comment pieces in response to recent developments, although this will not form a permanent part of the journal.  It is expected that the majority of journal content will be provided by academic writers, although the board may invite non-academic writers (for example activists and campaigners) to provide material from time to time.

It is anticipated that the journal will find an international audience (reflected in the editorial board) from a range of disciplines exploring gender, sexuality and law although a range of ‘core’ disciplines can be identified consisting of:  law, criminology, sociology, media/cultural studies  (again reflected in the board makeup and emphasised in the editorial assistant geographical distribution) with a clear emphasis on law.

You can check out the first issue and details of how to submit papers on the journal homepage.  The first issue is a special, focussing on ‘Bodies, identities, and gender regimes: Human rights and legal aspects of gender identity registration’, and is produced by C L Quinan, Verena Molitor, Marjolein van den Brink, and Tatiana Zimenkova.

Have We Banned Poppers by Mistake?

This week saw Home Secretary Priti Patel rip off the manky sticking plaster that was – since 2016 – dealing with the ban on poppers in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This was a ban that then turned out not to be a ban, but might actually be a ban after all.   She’s not sure.  Which is reassuring coming from the Home Secretary.  Patel was right that in stating that the law is ‘uncertain’, and it has been since a 2018 Court of Appeal judgment, but everyone was seemingly rather pretending it didn’t happen and therefore didn’t change anything.  Let’s leave that dodgy sticking plaster where it is.

Enter Nurse Patel.  In writing to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), she set out their priorities through to 2023 and indicated three areas in order of priority.  The third of these related to the poppers ban.

The passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 was – amidst a competitive field – not one of David Cameron’s finest moments.  It doesn’t even get a mention in his 2019 memoir chronicling his time in power.  The Home Secretary at the time was Theresa May, who would find the experience of an accidental screw up that would subsequently turn out to be claimed as deliberate before then being regarded once more as an accident would provide a template for her brief but vivid premiership.

HOpoppers

The 2016 legislation was intended to address the phenomenon of ‘legal highs’ but the drafting of the legislation seemed to also include poppers, prompting the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt to talk to Parliament of his poppers use, and defending the drug and its practical importance as an anal sphincter relaxant.  The Government refused to add poppers to the list of exemptions. The legislation passed with then Home Office Minister Karen Bradley promising a review (highlighting that it seemed the legislation did ban poppers).  The ACMD would subsequently write to the Home Secretary with their view that poppers didn’t have the effects that met the definition of ‘psychoactive substance’ within the legislation.  The Government accepted this and thus, the maybe ban was now clearly not a ban after all.  With perhaps a sigh of relief, the Government firmly stuck a plaster over the issue. The initial Police raids on premises selling poppers stopped, and sphincters relaxed once more.

The 2018 Court of Appeal case concerned Kirk Rochester who was convicted for the possession with intent to supply of a psychoactive substance – nitrous oxide – more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ at the Love Box Festival.  The question became whether nitrous oxide actually fell within the meaning of ‘psychoactive substance’ and the Court of Appeal ultimately agreed with the trial judge that a distinction between direct and indirect effect was not necessary as the legislation did not make such a distinction and thus an indirect effect is sufficient.   They also noted the ACMD review – by Ministerial direction – that they did in 2016 within a month of the legislation passing, in which they noted ‘peripheral effects’ rather than ‘direct action’ in the use of poppers, and as it doesn’t have a direct effect, it didn’t fall within the legislation.  That was a science judgment.  The law judgment is now clear that such a distinction between direct and indirect does not matter.

Patel’s intervention is to ask the ACMD to look at this legal question, but whatever their considerable scientific expertise, this is beyond it.  They can perhaps clarify their previous advice about indirect effect but if they indicate there is an indirect effect then poppers will be deemed to have been criminalised all along.  If they say there is no indirect effect, it raises questions about other substances.  It’s a mess.

If the Home Secretary believes there is uncertainty in the law, it should be addressed as a priority.  This is a legal question rather than a scientific one.  The Kirk Rochester case also clarified that the ACMD clarification on poppers and subsequent Government acceptance back in 2016 was after Parliament passed the legislation.  It is therefore irrelevant in terms of understanding the intention of Parliament for legal purposes. The intention of Parliament on poppers was that poppers were banned but they knew the Government was going to review this with the ACMD.  They did not know what the outcome of that review would be.  The utter inadequacy of this sticking plaster is now apparent.  The solution can only come through an unambiguous statement that the Government and Parliament do not intend for poppers to be banned and legislative brought forward to clarify this.  Any delay is an alarming abandonment of the basics of the Rule of Law and a particularly troubling development for the LGBTQ Community who will find their behaviour is criminalised.

Glory Holes for Safer Sex During Covid-19

Glory_hole_in_washroom_(155966507)The glory hole – a hole in a partition, traditionally between toilets in public conveniences/bathrooms, and typically large enough through which to push a penis – are an integral part of the historic criminalisation of homosexuality, but which could now be an important element in the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19.

These spaces were historically an important space in which men could engage in anonymous sexual encounters when gay sex was criminalised.  These encounters were often oral based but might also have involved penetrative anal sex, or have been voyeuristic, observing a neighbouring occupier engage in masturbation for example.   The Sexual Offences Act 1967 partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales but also introduced a law that specifically criminalised sex in public lavatories (since re-stated in the Sexual Offences Act 2003), and thus many of the encounters facilitated by the presence of a glory hole, ensuring that the glory hole not only occupies a place in the history of homosexuality, but continues to be a cultural symbol for illicit and forbidden sex.

Nonetheless, the glory hole and the sex it facilitates continues.  Entrenched in queer history and culture, it has also been appropriated into commercial sex spaces around the world.  Adult cinemas or ‘bookstores’ provide dedicated spaces, originally to view pornography, but also with glory holes between cubicle walls.  ‘Gay’ bars and clubs around the world also have glory hole spaces, whilst so too do many saunas and bathhouses – most of which remain closed in response to regulations and laws passed in recent months in response to Covid-19.

Reports that theBritish Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Canada was suggesting the use of glory holes, and earlier reports that New York’ City’s Department of Health similarly encouraged their use, largely drew online laughs and whatever the virtual equivalent of a slightly embarrassed avoidance of eye contact is.  Sex beyond reproductive domestic narratives remains an awkward subject for public discourse.

The BC Centre for Disease Control suggested being creative with ‘physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact’.  The advise provides a logical solution to facilitate sexual encounters, based on known science, and drawing on a device with a long history.

Europe and the Gloryhole

Commercial sex spaces have long drawn on the history of glory holes. Whilst sauna venues across the world are still struggling to re-open due to stringent regulations, some spaces have been able to open with Europe pointing the way.  For example, cruising spaces in Amsterdam were able to re-open in July (see for example Drake’s). Three venues re-opened at the heart of the city providing cinema spaces in which for a flat fee, customers then work through a labyrinth of individual booths equipped with porn screen and glory holes to the neighbouring booth(s). In contrast,  Amsterdam’s bars with cruising and gloryhole spaces have re-opened but not their sex spaces – even though some do have some gloryholes (see for example Dirty Dicks).  The fully open glory hole venues provide spaces in which people do not come into face to face contact but in which people can engage in sexual encounters.

In Berlin, glory hole venues have also re-opened (XXL) – like in Amsterdam – they provide flat-fee commercial spaces featuring multiple booths with gloryholes.

In Spain, gloryhole venues have re-opened but with greater restrictions (see for example Boyberry).  One Barcelona venue advises customers to use a facemask in public areas, and to avoid handshakes and kissing.  Disinfectant gel is provided.  Strikingly, all the above sites also provide information in English, reflecting the international nature of many of their customers, such as the British tourists taking advantage of the ‘air bridges’ in place this Summer to travel overseas.

In parts of the USA, smaller versions of the European glory-hole experience have been able to re-open, with limits on the numbers of customers who can be present.  One long-standing San Francisco ‘adult bookstore’ limits this to the number of cubicle spaces and has a queuing system outside the building.  Another venue in the city called Blow Buddies has been based entirely around gloryhole spaces and operated since the late 1980s.  It’s design was heavily influenced by the desire to provide ‘safer sex’ spaces in response to HIV/AIDS and might be considered to be the perfect venue once more with the onset of Covid-19.  Yet in March 2020 the venue closed, another SOMA victim of gentrification and rising property values in the Californian city.  These venues- which could now be important spaces – are also incredibly vulnerable.

For UK tourists returning to the UK, they will find no comparable spaces to these overseas venues, although some sex clubs, bars, and saunas do have gloryhole spaces.  There is now an opportunity to encourage gloryhole spaces within the UK through regulatory reform, to provide a harm-minimisation for sexual encounters.

A Legal Future?

Whilst there have been reports of the virus being found in sewage and semen, there is as yet no evidence of transmission through either medium.  The UK Government is currently encouraging us to ‘get back to the things we love’ and for many, rather than £10 off a meal out, this will take the form of sexual encounters, and these might be multiple-partner and anonymous encounters.  The glory-hole provides a way to do so in a safer way.  For many queers, our historic criminalised past perhaps provides a solution to the new covid-19 criminalisation that has once more surrounded our sex lives.

Same Sex Marriage and David Cameron’s Comfort Blanket

8947770804_3a77818249_bSome trivial thoughts can fester.  What on earth does former British PM David Cameron now use his Shepherd’s Hut for given he’s published his memoirs?  Does it have a strange array of screws, some rusting gardening tools and a knackered old barbecue clogging up the space?  Is it Dave’s ‘chillax’ space with mounds of moulding copies of Horse and Hound?

You could be forgiven for forgetting about the former Prime Minister.  Once on course to be one of the ‘great’ Tory leaders – taking his party back to power and relevance – he managed to rather spectacularly bugger it all up, and is arguably now fodder for those endless conversations about ‘worst political leader ever’.  Shortly before Christmas he made a brief comeback onto television with a slightly odd interview with a tree.  When not talking to a tree, he also managed to knock together a brief piece for the Christmas issue of The Spectator magazine.  They did a feature asking a range of writers including Grayson Perry, Boris Johnson, Richard Dawkins and a range of other public figures ‘when have you changed your mind’.  I imagine Cameron retreating to his Shepherd’s Hut for at least a week just to come up with a shortlist.

In the end Cameron wrote: ‘well, the gay marriage thing was something I changed my mind on’.  Ahh yes, the gay marriage ‘thing’ aka Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.  A landmark piece of legislation.  He describes it as his ‘biggest change of heart’ before – the mental leap here is impressive – going on to also throw into the mix ‘running’, saying that ‘I once got hypnotised to give up smoking – two days later I suddenly decided to go for a run’.  No mention of hypnotism is provided in relation to same-sex marriage.  Putin must be kicking himself for a strategy unexplored.  Or is he?  Have fun with that one daffy conspiracy theorists.

Cameron does however explore the topic in his memoir – published in the Autumn – entitled For the Record (and currently half price on Waterstones, plus there’s still signed copies available).  In it, he describes his struggle with the issue and talks about the  suggestions of those around him (including his wife) that he needed to change on the issue.  When he did, same-set marriage rolled through.  It feels slightly at odds with the account Lynne Feathertone provides in her excellent 2016 text Equal Ever After in which she talks about a long process of pushing reform and seeking support.  In truth, I think both accounts are right – there was a broad cultural movement.  Had Featherstone not been doing the work to think through issues, the legislation would not have been able to progress sin the way it did, and without Cameron’s ‘conversion’, it wouldn’t have happened.  Still, he mentions Featherstone just one in the index and says merely that Featherstone ‘did an excellent job leading on what became the biggest consultation in government history’ (p440).  Someone else who gets just one index reference is ‘Swampy’, the 90s eco-warrior (page 19 if you’re wondering).  You can’t help but thinking Featherstone deserved better from Cameron.

Cameron concludes his chapter – striking called ‘Love is Love’ with the claim that ‘gay marriage had shown me how you can dramatically change society and lives through sheer persistence and belief (446).  Yes, the sheer persistence of activists, campaigner, and a community calling for change did eventually get through to him.  Moreover, the Spectator column together with his memoir are striking for the way that same-sex marriage is seemingly Cameron’s ‘comfort blanket’ for his time in office – the go to issue to say “this is what I did, and we can all agree it’s a good thing”.  That is pretty remarkable in itself, and perhaps speaks to how far we have evolved as a society in recent years.