25 years fighting for LGBT rights
In 1989 a small band of men and women came together, driven by the desire to see the recently passed Section 28 of the Local Government Act repealed. What sounded like a harmless piece of regional legislation inspired one of the most successful campaigning charities.
Twenty-five years on and Stonewall has clocked up numerous political successes. We turn the clocks back to 1988 to see how it all started – and how Stonewall has played a key role in transforming the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act comes into force. It bans local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality, effectively prohibiting schools from offering support to lesbian, gay and bisexual young people or mentioning gay issues in the classroom.
On 20 May 1989 Stonewall is founded.
Ian McKellen, a Stonewall founder, meets Prime Minister John Major. This is the first time any sitting Prime Minister meets a gay equality campaigner.
Stonewall starts a major campaign for an equal age of consent. In 1993 it is illegal for men under 21 to have sex with other men. This leads to a reduction in the age of consent to 18, following a House of Commons vote.
Stephen Twigg is the first openly gay MP to be elected, with Angela Eagle becoming Britain’s first MP to come out voluntarily as a lesbian. Twelve months later, Waheed Alli became the first openly gay member of the House of Lords.
The ban on gay people serving in the armed forces is lifted. This follows a successful legal challenge at the European Court of Human Rights launched by former forces personnel and Stonewall.
The age of consent is equalised, lowering the age of consent to 16 for gay and bisexual men and for the first time covering lesbians and bisexual women.
Stonewall establishes the Diversity Champions programme, to help employers make their workplaces more gay-friendly, and Stonewall Scotland is founded.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual staff in workplaces across the country are protected from discrimination and harassment at work after the introduction of legislation lobbied for by Stonewall. Before this you could lose your job for being gay.
Section 28 is finally repealed, after years of lobbying by Stonewall, and Stonewall Cymru is founded - giving the charity a voice in England, Scotland and Wales.
The first Civil Partnerships take place in December, after the relevant legislation passed in 2004. Civil Partnerships prove far more popular than initial government estimates. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 also comes into force, granting same-sex couples equal adoption rights, and Stonewall’s Education for All programme, which tackles anti-gay bullying in schools, starts.
Stonewall’s iconic “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!” campaign starts. The campaign – designed to tackle anti-gay bullying in schools, is supported by high profile celebrities.
Stonewall’s goods and services protections become law. These make it illegal for hotels to turn away gay couples, or for public services to discriminate against gay people.
New legislation gives lesbian parents the right to have both their names on the birth certificate of their child as the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act, which Stonewall lobbied for, comes into force.
Stonewall publishes the first large scale study of lesbians’ and bisexual women’s health. The study reveals huge health inequalities faced by lesbians and bisexual women and paves the way for similar research for gay and bisexual men in 2011. In Scotland, the law changes to give same-sex couples equality in adoption and fostering.
Stonewall produces FIT, a film to help teachers tackle anti-gay bullying in secondary schools, and a new offence, championed by Stonewall, of incitement to homophobic hatred comes into force, making it illegal for people to stir up hatred against lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Stonewall amends its charitable objectives to campaign internationally.
A huge campaign by Stonewall and gay rights activists sees equal marriage legislation successfully pass through Parliament. The first same-sex marriages take place in England and Wales in March 2014. In Scotland equal marriage legislation is passed in February 2014.
IN THE FUTURE…
While much has been achieved, there’s still much to do. While legislation now gives lesbian, gay and bisexual people full equality, social equality is still some way off.
STONEWALL FOUNDER IAN MCKELLEN LEAVING DOWNING STREET IN 1991
OUT GAY MPS STEPHEN TWIGG AND ANGELA EAGLE
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: STONEWALL’S ANTI- GAY BULLYING FILM; LORD WAHEED ALLI ( PICTURE THEO GRZEGORCZYK); THE ARMY AT PRIDE; STONEWALL AT PRIDE; STONEWALL’S ICONIC CAMPAIGN; THE NAVY AND THE RAF AT PRIDE