Every year, at about this time, I read the list of people upon whom HM The Queen has been pleased to bestow honours. For many years, I have hoped to see the name of one particular person among them. This morning, that hope of mine has been realised.
Jeffrey Edward Anthony DUDGEON. For services to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in Northern Ireland.
Without Jeff and those who took HM Government in the United Kingdom to court from 1976, many people in Northern Ireland might still be living in fear of blackmail, losing their jobs, reputation, and even their lives simply because of their sexual orientation.
Jeff’s case Dudgeon v United Kingdom is often cited around the world. More specifically, here in Northern Ireland, it lead to the decriminalising of male homosexual acts between men over the age of 21 in private by the Privy Council in 1982.
Since those days, Jeff has continued to lead the fight for LGBT equality in Northern Ireland with others from the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA).
I know of his tireless work on this issue, as I was involved with NIGRA in the lobbying of Parliament for the extension to Northern Ireland of the whole of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (then Bill in Parliament). We had many sessions of writing letters to MPs, Peers, the NIO. Finally we were successful in part and had some provisions adopted as amendments and subsequently real law.
At the time – and indeed looking back on one particular meeting in Castle Buildings, Stormont with officials from the Northern Ireland Office – it was rather amusing to be told by the NIO officials that it would be near impossible to write the amendments in time for laying in Parliament the following week. I asked then if they wanted them for the Commons or the Lords. On being told the Lords, I reached into my bag and brought out many sheets of paper with many, many amendments for the that House: I had produced a set for each House of Parliament, after many hours of research in libraries looking at the law as it applied in Northern Ireland compared with what was being changed in the Bill for England & Wales. I was asked if I was a lawyer by the officials: I said I was not. (Of course I am just over a month away from beginning the first law module of the LLB degree from The Open University.)
I am so pleased that Jeff has been appointed a MBE, and I look forward to congratulating him in person when next I see him. Only a couple of weeks ago was a picture taken of Andrew and myself with Jeff and his partner out at a fundraising night for the Ugandan LGBT activists.