Campaign for Homosexual Equality
|Founder||Allan Horsfall and Colin Harvey|
|Origins||Homosexual Law Reform Society|
|North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee|
The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) is one of the oldest gay rights organisations in the United Kingdom. It is a membership organisation which aims to promote legal and social equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in England and Wales. CHE was one of the two main English gay rights organisations of the 1970s, along with the Gay Liberation front, but during the 1980s organisations such as Stonewall (UK) and Peter Tatchell's OutRage! became more influential. CHE had 2,800 members and 60 local groups by 1972. At its peak in the middle 1970s it was claiming 5,000 members and some 100 local groups. By the 1990s its membership had diminished. CHE's activities included pressing for law reforms, providing educational material for use in schools, and attempting to influence the provision of medical, psychiatric and social services. Since the 1980s, CHE has continued to campaign, although with reduced membership the range of its activities have been greatly reduced.
CHE grew out of the North Western branch of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS), the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee (NWHLRC). NWHLRC was founded in Manchester by Allan Horsfall and Colin Harvey in 1964. The formal launch took place at a public meeting on 7 October 1964 at Church House in Manchester. After the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into force, the London-based Homosexual Law Reform Society was thought by many to have achieved its aims.
The NWHLRC, which in 1967 had already fallen out with Antony Grey of HLRS/Albany Trust over the northerners' wish to press ahead with the establishment of gay clubs, felt on the contrary that much remained to be done, and named itself the Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in 1969 with a view to becoming a national body for England and Wales (in close co-operation with its counterpart north of the border, the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG)).
Change to campaign
In 1971 CHE's name changed once more, to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). It raised money to rent an office in Manchester and employ a full-time General Secretary, Paul Temperton, and it set out to become a fully democratic "bottom-up" membership organisation.
In 1971 CHE members took part in the first major gay demonstration in London. On 28 August the Gay Day began in Hyde Park, followed by a march to Trafalgar Square, nominally to protest at the age of consent. Between 500 and 1,000 marchers were reported to have attended.
In 1973 CHE held the first national gay rights conference in Morecambe. Its second annual conference, held in 1974 in Malvern, "signalled a formal coalescence between the separate strands represented by GLF and CHE, and CHE's formal commitment to a policy of militant reformism".
In 1974 CHE organised a national Homosexual Equality Rally in London. The rally was supported by the women's movement and people from ethnic minorities. Where earlier actions had concentrated on legal protection from criminal persecution, this rally was part of gay and lesbian people starting to establish a distinct sexual identity. Those who turned out for the rally did so to support the extension of constitutional rights and universal values to lesbian and gay people.
CHE, together with its Scottish (SMG) and Northern Irish (USFI) equivalents, produced a draft Law Reform Bill in 1975 and devoted much energy to lobbying parliamentarians to introduce it. Among other things, the Bill would have brought about a common age of consent of 16 for all sexual behaviour, something not in fact achieved until many years later.
Growth of local groups
During the 1970s, CHE established a network of up to 100 local groups throughout England and Wales. These were often highly independent, producing their own newsletters giving details of social and campaigning activities in their own area. Local groups and members had input into CHE policy through the National Council, which met quarterly at different venues through the country, and was composed of CHE members elected by the whole membership. Annual conferences also continued to be held; these were major, multifaceted events covering a long bank-holiday weekend and can be seen in hindsight as key moments in the struggle for gay rights in Britain.
Shedding of local groups and concentration on campaigning
During the 1980s, the national organisation later decided that the running of local groups was no longer part of CHE's core function—a decision that was by no means universally supported by the membership. Thereafter many of the groups continued as independent bodies, often with names such as "The xxx Area Gay Society". Following the splitting-off of the local groups, CHE gradually ceased to be a mass-membership organisation, and other groups such as Stonewall and OutRage! have become more prominent in the UK campaign for gay rights.
Derek Oyston legacy
In 2005, CHE received a substantial bequest from a former member, Derek Oyston of Gateshead. Oyston's name was commemorated in the Derek Oyston Film Awards, presented in conjunction with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival from 2009 to 2013, and the Derek Oyston Achievement Awards to individuals, presented in 2009 and 2011.
In April 2009, Liberty (pressure group) notified CHE of the termination of its affiliation with Liberty in a letter from director of operations Raj Chandarana, who wrote that significant concerns had been raised about CHE and the appropriateness of their continued affiliation to Liberty, citing issues with "the nature and size of the CHE membership, governance structures, constitution, electoral process, policy-making process, financial transparency, recent issues and commitment to the objectives of Liberty". Concern was also raised over a motion on child abuse put forward by CHE: "We urge the government to introduce a Statute of Limitation which would debar any criminal prosecution in respect of alleged child abuse unless the matter was brought to the attention of the police within five years of the complainant reaching the age of majority", which was not discussed. The letter to CHE stated, "In particular, your motion on child sex abuse is also clearly contrary to the objectives of Liberty, as listed in Article 2 of Liberty's constitution."
History and commemorative events
In 2010 CHE commissioned the author and playwright Peter Scott-Presland to write the official history of the organisation and its times. The first volume of the history, entitled Amiable Warriors, is to be published in 2015/
Allan Horsfall, founder and Life President of CHE, died in August 2012. In October that year, on what would have been Horsfall's 85th birthday, CHE organised an event to celebrate his life, in the Banqueting Room at Manchester Town Hall, compered by Peter Scott-Presland, with tributes and presentations from people who had been associated with Allan Horsfall over the years.
On 7 October 2014, to commemorate CHE's 50th anniversary, a plaque was unveiled by the Bishop of Manchester and the Lord Mayor of Manchester at Church House, the offices of the Anglican Diocese of Manchester, where the first NWHLRC meeting had been held in 1964. The same evening, CHE received the 2014 Alan Turing Memorial Award as part of the Homo Heroes Awards ceremony organised by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.
CHE produced a national newsletter from 1969 to 1971: this gave rise to the CHE Bulletin, which ran from 1971 to 1974; also, CHE Magazine Working Party (set up in 1971) produced Lunch from 1971 to 1974. From 1975 to 1976 CHE published CHE Broadsheet. Between 1976 and 1977 a newspaper called Out was produced.
By the end of the year Friend had become a separate national counselling and befriending organisation. As the London-based organisation began to spread across the UK, and local groups grew up, the whole network began to be known as National Friend.
It was incorporated as a limited company in 1987 with the name of National Friend Ltd.
National Friend became a network of groups whose volunteers provided information, support and befriending to lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Local groups were affiliated to National Friend, though they remained autonomous within agreed guidelines, which included a constitution, code of ethics, code of practice, an equal opportunities programme and a complaints procedure.
In 1995 there were 31 local groups calling themselves either Friend or Gay Switchboard.
The National Committee supports the local groups, provides guidance, advertises the work of Friend to outside agencies and holds conferences on subjects of mutual interest.
London Friend was separated from CHE in 1975.
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