History of The Body Politic
The Body Politic and the Law

Rainbow Line

Throughout its life, the Body Politic had several notorious and very public run-ins with the law. The first, rather minor compared with those yet to occur, occurred with the Morality Squad of the Metro Toronto Police ordered the May 1975 issue of the Body Politic off newsstands because of a cartoon called "Harold Hedd," which depicted two men engaged in oral sex. The repercussions of this were fairly minor, and the paper continued to publish normally.

The most famous scandal in the life of the Body Politic occurred with the publication of Gerald Hannon's article "Men loving boys loving men," the third in a series of articles on the topic of consent and youth sexuality. The reaction to this article transformed the Body Politic from a small, little-known tabloid into "a minor institution and the major political voice of a visible and acknowledged gay community" (Rick Bébout, online). On January 5, 1978, police raided the Body Politic's offices and laid criminal charges against Pink Triangle Press and its officers under Sections 159 and 164 of the Criminal Code, "possession of obscene material for distribution" and "use of the mails to distribute immoral, indecent and scurrilous materials," respectively (Rick Bébout, online). In the ensuing legal battle, which lasted nearly five years, the magazine found itself fighting for its very survival. The Body Politic was eventually acquitted twice on these charges, in spite of Crown appeals.

While the trial drained the Body Politic's treasury and provided fodder for radical anti-gay campaigns such as that of Anita Bryant, it also benefited the journal in several ways. The trial served to expand the ranks of the Body Politic supporters, it ingrained the journal's name in people's minds and it thrust the gay community into an intense public spotlight where it had previously been largely shut out of the mainstream media.

Although this trial was by far the most important and sensational of the Body Politic's brushes with the law, it was not to be the last. In 1982, nine members of the Body Politic editorial collective were arrested on charges of publishing obscene material after an article on 'fistfucking' appeared in the the Body Politic's April issue. The trial lasted only a day, November 1, 1982 , and all nine were acquitted. The verdict was not appealed.