Stonewall organises the first lesbian and gay receptions held at the Liberal Democrat, Labour & Conservative Party conferences.
Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA) is founded.
The World Health Organisation declassifies homosexuality as a mental illness.
The first pre-watershed lesbian kiss is broadcast on Channel 4’s Brookside.
The television series Queer As Folk premieres on Channel 4.
Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in the armed forces
One of Stonewall’s first and longest campaigns was to lift the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the armed forces.
How it all started
It began when Robert Ely, who had served in the army for seventeen years, came to see us. The discovery of a letter had led to his sexual orientation being disclosed. He was subjected to a humiliating investigation and thrown out of the army.
Robert, along with Elaine Chambers who had been dismissed from the armed forces in 1988, went on to co-found Rank Outsiders in 1991 (now known as AFLaGA), the support group for lesbians and gay men in the armed forces.
First challenge in Parliament
In 1992 Rank Outsiders and Stonewall gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on the armed forces. This was the first time ever that lesbians and gay men had challenged the ban. As a result of that evidence the Conservative government promised to stop the criminal prosecution of armed service personnel who were homosexual.
Nevertheless the dismissals and the degrading investigations continued. The Ministry of Defence argued that the presence of lesbians and gay men in the armed forces would undermine morale and fighting capability.
The legal battle
Stonewall was approached by Ed Hall, a Navy Officer who had been dismissed in 1988 for being gay, and in 1994 Ed founded the Armed Forces Legal Challenge Group with the support of Stonewall and Rank Outsiders. In 1995 Ed published his book We Can"t Even March Straight which raised awareness of the discrimination and homophobia faced by lesbian and gay people in the armed forces.
In 1998 Stonewall was contacted by Jeanette Smith, who had been thrown out of the airforce and Duncan Lustig Prean, naval commander who was being dismissed. They asked us to arrange legal representation. This began the long battle through the courts with the help of the Armed Forces Legal Challenge Group and Rank Outsiders. Graham Grady and John Beckett also joined the case.
At that time there was no Human Rights Act. Although the judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal said that they felt the ban was not justified they could not overturn it and Stonewall had to go to Strasbourg and the European Court of Human Rights to finally win victory (see legal judgments below). The judgment of the Court was a resounding vindication of the rights of lesbians and gay men and the Labour government immediately announced that they would lift the ban.
A happy ending
This was done on 12th January 2000 and a new general code of sexual conduct was introduced. The armed forces have stated that the new policy has caused no problems.
In February 2005, the Royal Navy joined Stonewall"s Diversity Champions programme, followed in November 2006 by the RAF and by the Army in June 2008, to promote good working conditions for all existing and potential employees and to ensure equal treatment for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual.
At London Pride 2008, all three armed services marched in uniform for the first time.
Stonewall Cymru is founded.
The Gender Recognition Act is passed, allowing transsexual people to change their legal gender, lobbied for by Press for Change.
Stonewall launches the Education for All campaign to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
This change in legislation means that B&B owners can no longer refuse gay customers and registrars cannot opt out of conducting civil partnerships.
The Army becomes Stonewall’s 400th Diversity Champion.
Ian Baynham, 62, of Beckenham in south-east London, was fatally attacked in September 2009 outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square. He was subjected to homophobic verbal abuse before being repeatedly punched and stamped upon.
Joel Alexander, 20, and Ruby Thomas, 19, were convicted of manslaughter at the beginning of 2011 receiving sentences of 6 and 7 years respectively.
Section 28 Apology
In July, David Cameron apologised for the infamous Section 28 legislation which was introduced in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s government and banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools. Whilst speaking at a gay pride fundraiser, Cameron stated:
"We may have sometimes been slow, and yes we may have made mistakes, including Section 28, but the change has happened…If five years ago we had a Conservative and Gay Pride party, I don"t think many gay people would have come or many Conservatives would have come. In wanting to make the party representative of the country, I think we have made some real progress."
He also admitted that he did not have a perfect record in voting for gay rights (he voted against the repeal of Section 28 in 2003), but promised that his party was now united on the issue after years of infighting over the clause.
The law changes in Scotland in September to give same-sex couples equality in adoption and fostering.
The rugby star Gareth Thomas comes out as gay.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act received Royal Assent on 8th April 2010 and is warmly welcomed by Stonewall. It has the potential to secure greater fairness and equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people across Britain and could see marked improvements for gay people in a range of key public services, from policing to education and from housing to health services. Stonewall played a major part in lobbying for parts of the Act relevant to sexual orientation.
The Act updates our complex existing framework of anti-discrimination laws and makes it simpler for individuals, businesses and organisations to understand and access the law in one place.
From October 2010, the new Equality Act replaced the existing legal protections covering employment - the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 - and businesses and services, including schools - the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Importantly however, people continue to have the same level of protection in these areas.
The Act also introduces important new measures, including an ‘equality duty’ on public bodies to proactively promote equality - from April 2011 - and permitting civil partnerships in religious buildings, where religious denominations wish to do this.
The Act introduced other changes too, such as repealing a previous exemption for insurance providers.
Incitement to homophobic hatred offence
This new criminal offence outlawed threatening behaviour or materials intended to stir up hatred against people on grounds of their sexual orientation. Stonewall successfully lobbied for the new protections and warmly welcomed their introduction. Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said the following when the new offence was introduced on 23rd March 2010:
“We’re delighted that incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation can now finally be tackled effectively by the criminal law, in a similar way to hatred based on race or religion. Throughout our campaign for this legal change, Stonewall uncovered a range of extreme websites and material stirring up anti-gay hatred. This new legislation will send a strong positive signal, encouraging more lesbian, gay and bisexual people to report hate incidents. Gay people are entitled to live without fear just like everyone else. The newly-extended criminal offence of incitement to hatred will go some way towards addressing the hatred and violence directed towards lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Britain at a time when homophobic attacks are on the increase. It sends a strong signal that such behaviour is unacceptable in a civilised society. Just like race, a person"s sexual orientation is an intrinsic characteristic for which no citizen should ever feel under threat of verbal or physical violence.”
Stonewall sought a specific incitement offence having uncovered extreme homophobic materials that the law was previously powerless to address. The measures are included in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, building on existing legislation against racial and religious hatred.
The "Alli Amendment" permits the celebration of civil partnerships in religious buildings.
Stonewall amends its charitable objectives to campaign internationally.
Ruth Davidson, an open lesbian, is elected to lead the Scottish Tory party.
Read his speech here. Sadly, Roger later took his own life.
Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy are successful in their case against B&B owners who refused them a double room on the basis of their sexual orientation.
London hosts the 2012 Olympics, which is hailed as the most diverse games ever, yet only 10 medallists are openly LGB.
Explicit references to homophobic bullying are introduced into Ofsted’s inspection framework.
Russia introduces anti-gay propaganda laws and Uganda passes a bill increasing sentences for those found guilty of homosexuality. In India, homosexual acts are re-criminalised by the Indian Supreme Court.
|In 2014 Stonewall turns 25. We’ve seen remarkable achievements for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in Britain since we were founded in 1989 and we’re hugely proud of being part of these changes. To celebrate, we’ve pulled together our highlights to date. Browse the timeline above to see how far we’ve come in a quarter of a century!
While you’re here, why not also share your stories? We’d love to hear from you!
|Video: Stonewall 25th Anniversary|