Stonewall (officially Stonewall Equality Limited) is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights charity in the United Kingdom, named after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village. It is the largest LGBT rights organisation in Europe and was formed in 1989 by political activists and others lobbying against section 28 of the Local Government Act. Its founders include Sir Ian McKellen, Lisa Power MBE and Lord Cashman CBE.
|Formation||24 May 1989|
|Headquarters||London, with regional offices in Edinburgh, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales.|
|Part of a series on|
|LGBT rights |
in the United Kingdom
Stonewall diversified into policy development for the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people after Labour came to power in 1997. It remains a lobbying organisation rather than a membership organisation.
Stonewall has regional offices for all of Great Britain: Stonewall in GB is based in London, Stonewall Scotland has headquarters in Edinburgh, and Stonewall Cymru (Stonewall Wales) is in Cardiff and north Wales. Currently[update], Stonewall does not have any regional headquarters in Northern Ireland.
- Tim Barnett (1989–1992)
- Angela Mason (1992–2002)
- Ben Summerskill (2003–2014)
- Baroness Hunt of Bethnal Green (2014–2019)
- Nancy Kelley (2020–)
- Sheldon Mills (Chair of Trustees)
- Jan Gooding
- Reeha Alder
- Andrew Pakes
- Meri Williams
- Michele Oliver
- Mohsin Zaidi
- Catherine Dixon
- Simon Blake OBE
- Tim Toulmin
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2019)
Stonewall's most high-profile achievements have been in common law and parliamentary lobbying.
- Chris Morris and Euan Sutherland, who in Sutherland v United Kingdom successfully challenged the unequal age of consent laws.
- Duncan Lustig-Prean and John Beckett, who successfully challenged the ban on gay people in the armed forces.
- Lisa Grant, who (unsuccessfully) sued her employer, South West Trains, for equal pay and benefits.
Legislative achievements in this period or arising from Mason's work include:
- amendments to the 2002 Adoption and Children Bill, which treated lesbian and gay couples in the same way as heterosexuals.
- Equalisation of the age of consent to 16 years old, as part of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000, after the use of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, in November 2000.
- repeal of Clause 2a of the Local Government Act in Scotland (2000).
- repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act in England and Wales (2003).
- recognition of anti-gay hate crimes through the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
- introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which give gay and lesbian couples a legal framework equivalent to civil marriage.
Away from the courts and Parliament, Stonewall launched the Diversity Champions programme in 2001. The scheme engaged employers in developing best practice and within 18 months successfully garnered members ranging from major banks, through national retailers to Government departments such as the MoD, Home Office and the Treasury. Stonewall gained Lottery funding for the Citizen 21 programme, a three-year project (2000 to 2003) which tackled LGB discrimination in education and developed materials that became widely used in the education sector. An information bank and advice service was also formed as part of the project.
Stonewall was also involved in successful parliamentary campaigns to:
- shape the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, protections against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services secured through the Equality Act 2006.
- equalise treatment of lesbian parents and their children in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
- introduce an offence of incitement to homophobic hatred in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, matching existing protections around race and religion.
Stonewall and their contributions to the British 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, a campaign finally won in 1999. Though the law banning homosexuality in the armed forces was not repealed until the 2016 Armed Forces Act, the internal policy was changed in 2000. The campaign began when Robert Ely, who had served in the British Army for seventeen years, and former Army Nurse Elaine Chambers approached Stonewall. The discovery of a letter had led Robert to his sexual orientation being disclosed and he was subjected to an investigation and thrown out of the army.
In 1998, Stonewall was approached by Jeanette Smith, who had been thrown out of the Royal Air Force, and Duncan Lustig Prean, a Royal Navy commander who was being dismissed. They asked Stonewall to arrange legal representation, leading to a long battle through the courts with Graham Grady and John Beckett also joining 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 take the case to Strasbourg and the European Court of Human Rights before winning it. The judgment of the Court was a vindication of the rights of lesbians and gay men and the Labour government of the time immediately announced that they would lift the ban. This took place on 12 January 2000, and a new general code of sexual conduct was introduced.
In 2004 the Armed Forces hosted their first LGBTQ Conference at the Military Chaplaincy, at Amport House near Andover. Over 50 servicemen and women attended this first gathering of this previously hidden community.
In February 2005, the Royal Navy joined Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme, followed in November 2006 by the Royal Air Force and by the British Army, the largest of the three services, 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. All three services openly recruit at gay pride events, and enjoy support for gay personnel at the very highest levels.
The British Army requires all soldiers to undergo equality and diversity training as part of their Military Annual Training Tests and stress tolerance, specifically citing gay examples in training videos, in line with the British Army Core Values and Standards, including "Respect for Others", and "Appropriate Behaviour". It considers its core values and standards as central to being a professional soldier.
In 2009, the tenth anniversary of the change of law that permitted homosexuality in the armed forces, it was generally accepted that the lifting of the ban had no perceivable impact on the operational effectiveness on a military that still considers itself world class. The anniversary was widely celebrated, including in the Army's in-house publication Soldier Magazine, with a series of articles including the July 2009 cover story. Soldiers and Officers have given public support to Stonewall's campaign against school bullying, It Gets Better....
In 2015 following the fifteenth anniversary of the change in the law the Ministry of Defence announced changes to its monitoring process and now asks new recruits to disclose their sexuality if they wish.
Proud2Serve is an online support group that provides advice and support to serving and prospective members of the British Armed Forces. Stonewall continues to work with all three services in their role as diversity champions.
Stonewall's work now focuses on working with organisations to bring equality to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people at home, at school, and at work. Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme for major employers has risen from 100 members to over 650. Organisations now engaged in the programme, between them employing over four million people, range from Deloitte and American Express in the private sector to the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, British Army and MI5 in the public sector.
In 2005 Stonewall launched an Education for All programme, supported by a coalition of over 70 organisations, to tackle homophobia in schools. Stonewall's education work also includes the slogan 'Some people are gay. Get over it!' which has been seen at schools, on billboards, tube carriages and buses across Britain.
General Election 2015
Days before the May 2015 UK general election Stonewall apologised after being criticised for publishing an online campaign graphic which suggested that only the Labour Party substantially supported LGBT equality in its manifesto. Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams had previously told PinkNews that: "I'm astounded by this grossly misleading graphic."
The Guardian noted that Stonewall's chief executive, Ruth Hunt, has "been criticised for being too timid – for example for not joining a boycott [in May 2014] of the Dorchester hotel, owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who gave approval to Brunei's new penal code, which urges death by stoning for same-sex sexual activity". The charity had attracted much attention when it announced in The Daily Telegraph that Stonewall would not be joining the wide boycott of the London hotel where it was to hold a gala dinner. The CEO, Ruth Hunt, argued that there was not "a mandate for the boycott" and "We only implement actions that we can calculate will have an impact."
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused Stonewall of endorsing discrimination by holding champagne receptions for celebrities and politicians supported by HSBC, despite the company being sued by Peter Lewis in 2005 for unfair dismissal on grounds of sexual orientation. Although Lewis lost this case, he expressed gratitude to Stonewall for its support.
Stonewall under the leadership of Ben Summerskill came under criticism in September 2010, after he made comments at a Liberal Democrat party conference fringe event that Stonewall "expressed and expresses no view" on same-sex marriage and that the equal marriage policy proposed by gay Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams could potentially cost £5 billion. Summerskill's comments were criticised by two of Stonewall's co-founders: Michael Cashman MEP wrote an op-ed for Pink News entitled "What part of 'equality' can't Stonewall understand?"; and Sir Ian McKellen stated that Stonewall should put marriage equality on their agenda. Summerskill defended his comments at the Labour Party conference a week later after LGBT Labour activists criticised Stonewall's lack of transparency and democracy, and failure to lobby for marriage; he stated that "Stonewall has never pretended to be a democratic member organisation. We have never said we speak for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people." In the face of pressure from the LGBT community, including a PinkNews survey finding that 98% of the LGBT community wanted the right to marry, Stonewall announced in October 2010 their support for same-sex marriage.
Stonewall's former position on same-sex marriage came under greater scrutiny in March 2014, two weeks before the first same-sex marriages were to commence; in a BBC Radio 4 programme on same-sex marriage, Summerskill attacked the Liberal Democrats for being "cynical and opportunistic" during their Autumn 2010 conference, highlighting Evan Harris's comment that the policy would put "clear blue water between [them] and the Tories", a position that was criticised by Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat junior minister responsible for the act, and Peter Tatchell.
Award nomination protests
In 2008, transgender rights activists picketed the Stonewall Awards in protest of the nomination of The Guardian journalist Julie Bindel for Journalist of the Year, who had written a piece in 2004 entitled "Gender Benders Beware" asserting that sex reassignment surgery was "unnecessary mutilation". Bindel had also written an article in 2001 accusing gay men, as a cultural group, of supporting paedophilia. Sue Perkins, winner of Entertainer of the Year, said she supported the decision to picket the event and that she was "incredibly upset that anyone has been offended". Comedian Amy Lame, nominee for Entertainer of the Year, considered the protest "insulting to Stonewall", which had "achieved so much for so many people – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender", saying "all of those people have been included in laws they helped to change."
In 2010, The Sun journalist Bill Leckie was nominated for the same award for his column on gay rugby player Gareth Thomas, in spite of being criticised in a Stonewall Scotland report in 2007 for his comments regarding a drag queen bingo night. Several trans rights campaigners made a direct comparison between the Leckie and Bindel nominations. A similar demonstration was planned for the awards ceremony, but was cancelled after Stonewall withdrew the nomination. Writing in The Guardian, Natacha Kennedy argued Stonewall was "holding back transgender equality", highlighting the nomination and claiming that trans people are unable to join the organisation despite having been "central to the 1969 Stonewall riots", as well as criticising the use of the pejorative term "tranny" in Stonewall's anti-homophobia film Fit, aimed at secondary schools.
In 2015, Stonewall created an advisory group to help guide its work on transgender issues, and announced plans to start campaigning for trans equality in a report generated from consultation with over 700 trans people. Stonewall chief Ruth Hunt said that the organisation "recognise[d] the impact of mistakes we have made in the past" and "apologise[d] to trans people for the harm that we have caused", listing the award nominations, use of the word "tranny", and a failure to use their "positions of privilege" to discuss trans issues with ministers as "a series of cockups". In 2017, the group produced a document outlining their plan for Transgender Equality in the UK titled "A Vision for Change". In 2018, they released T-shirts with slogans opposing transphobia, such as "Trans Women Are Women. Get Over It!", based on the organisation's "Some People are Gay. Get Over it!" campaign from 2007.
In February 2019, Ruth Hunt stepped down amid controversy over the organisation's support for transgender rights. In June 2020, she was succeeded by Nancy Kelley. In her first interview as incoming chief executive of Stonewall, Kelley argued that the organisation didn't need to convince people to agree on a shared understanding of gender, and would instead focus on building support for "changes that make trans lives easier", such as "lower levels of hate crime, better access to health services and more inclusive schools and workplaces".
In October 2019, the lobby group LGB Alliance formed in opposition to Stonewall's policies on transgender issues. Lesbian barrister Allison Bailey, who helped establish the organisation, sued Stonewall in July 2020, claiming she had been victimised as a result.
In May 2021, the Equality and Human Rights Commission did not renew ties with Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme, which provides advice to partners on workplace discrimination, citing "cost reasons". In the same month, a report commissioned by the University of Essex criticised the programme as having given inaccurate advice after the university temporarily decided not to re-invite two speakers with anti-transgender views. Stonewall denied involvement in the university's decision-making, and defended its interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, on which its advice is based.
Writing in The Times, Stonewall co-founder and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris criticised the charity for getting "tangled up in the trans issue" and being "cornered into an extreme stance". Kelley responded that support for transgender rights was the norm for LGBT organisations and that she was "really comfortable" with Stonewall's direction as an organisation.
- LGBT rights in the United Kingdom
- List of LGBT rights organisations
- Sexual orientation and military service
- Stonewall riots
- Stonewall Awards
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As Europe's largest gay equality organisation, Stonewall's work includes policy development, cultural and attitudinal change, lobbying for legal change, providing information and offering good practice design and advice.
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