Stonewall (officially Stonewall Equality Limited) is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights charity in the United Kingdom named after the Stonewall Inn of Stonewall riots fame in New York City's Greenwich Village. Now the largest LGBT rights organisation not only in the UK but in Europe, it 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).
|Motto||Acceptance without exception|
|Formation||20 May 1989|
|Headquarters||Tower Building (near Waterloo station) and other regional offices in Edinburgh and Cardiff|
|United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland)|
Stonewall has 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. Former Chief Executive Ben Summerskill has commented: "We are not a 'democratic' organisation ... We seek to develop all our work, and policy positions where appropriate, by building as wide a consensus as possible among lesbian, gay and bisexual people."
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.
Stonewall's most high-profile achievements have been in parliamentary lobbying. Under Director Angela Mason, it saw amendments to the 2002 Adoption and Children Bill which treated lesbian and gay couples in the same way as heterosexuals, and Mason was awarded an OBE "for services to homosexual rights". Under its former Chief Executive Ben Summerskill it was in successful parliamentary campaigns to:
- repeal Section 28 of the Local Government Act (2003),
- recognise anti-gay hate crimes, through the Criminal Justice Act 2003,
- introduce the Civil Partnership Act 2004 giving gay and lesbian couples a legal framework equivalent to civil marriage,
- introduce the 2007 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.
Earlier high-profile work was backing legal test cases in the European Court of Human Rights. These included:
- 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.
Stonewall 'outs' the armed forcesEdit
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. It began when Robert Ely, who had served in the British Army for seventeen years, approached Stonewall. The discovery of a letter had led 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 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 by all 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 and articles in many national newspapers. Soldiers and Officers have given public support to Stonewall's campaign against school bullying, It Gets Better....
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 and bisexual 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.
Stonewall has also produced research reports in areas such as homophobic hate crime, lesbian health and homophobia in football.
Stonewall also holds a number of high-profile events, including the Stonewall Equality Dinner, the Stonewall Summer Party and the Brighton Equality Walk.
General Election 2015Edit
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 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.
Historically, Stonewall in England and Wales did not directly campaign or lobby on transgender issues, instead electing to work with transgender charities. In contrast, Stonewall Scotland, which is part of Stonewall GB, campaigns on transgender issues and its research is trans-inclusive.
In October 2008, the London Transfeminist Group 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 sexual reassignment surgery was "unnecessary mutilation". 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 ... I think Stonewall has achieved so much for so many people – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – all of those people have been included in laws they helped to change."
In October 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 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.
In a column for the Guardian published shortly after the Leckie nomination, trans campaigner Natacha Kennedy asserted that Stonewall was "holding back transgender equality", highlighting the Bindel and Leckie nominations and its then-opposition to equal marriage, claiming that trans people are unable to join despite the fact "a lot of them were central to the 1969 Stonewall riots", and criticising the use of the pejorative term "tranny" as "short for transgender" in the anti-homophobia play Fit.
On 16 February 2015 Stonewall announced their plan to campaign for trans equality in a report generated from consultation with over 700 trans people, despite previously maintaining a "a strict distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity", with Stonewall chief Ruth Hunt saying that "historically, we thought it was the right thing to do" but that she has now changed her mind, saying that: "We recognise the impact of mistakes we have made in the past. We are aware that we have missed opportunities to open up this conversation far sooner. We apologise to trans people for the harm that we have caused."
Hunt has also described transgender inclusion in Stonewall as "a real joy", saying that: "We [Stonewall] made a series of cockups, so it didn't look like we were trying to support people ... We invited speakers with a transphobic history, we nominated them for awards, we made a film for secondary schools which included the word "tranny" unhelpfully ... we were often in positions of privilege and opportunity with ministers where we could have talked about trans issues. By not doing, we were doing more harm."
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.
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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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On the issue of straight couples being refused civil partnerships, he said gay marriage had been "chained" to heterosexual rights, which Stonewall does not lobby for. The former Labour MP David Borrow also criticised Stonewall. He said: "It is not a member-run organisation. It does not give the opportunity to LGBT people to come together." He said that the charity is still seen as a spokesman for the gay community and implored Mr Summerskill to "go back to Stonewall and look again". Mr Borrow added that the charity had a "real dilemma" in who it speaks for. In response, Mr Summerskill said: "Stonewall has never pretended to be a democratic member organisation. We have never said we speak for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people."
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