Campaign for Homosexual Equality

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Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE)
Founded7 October 1964
FounderAllan Horsfall and Colin Harvey
OriginsHomosexual Law Reform Society
Formerly called
  • North-Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee (NWHLRC; 1964–1969)
  • Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE; 1969–1971)

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) is a membership organisation in the United Kingdom with a stated aim from 1969 to promote legal and social equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in England and Wales.[1] Active throughout the 1970s – and becoming a mass-membership organisation during this time – CHE's membership declined in the 1980s.[2]

CHE set up a research trust in 2021 to 'advance education for the public benefit about the history of the struggle for LGBT+ rights, including but not limited to the origins and history of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and by contributing to the safe preservation of LGBT+ archives'. The CHE Research Trust (CHERT) was registered as a charity on 11 March 2022. [3]


One of fifteen sponsored memorials on Leeds Rainbow Plaque Trail, in aid of Leeds Pride, commemorating the Swarthmore Centre as safe space in 1971 where the group met.[4]

CHE began in Manchester as the North-Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee in 1964 as a local branch of the Homosexual Law Reform Society. An initial meeting was held on 4 June 1964, but only about eight people attended. A decision was made to re-establish the group on a wider basis, and an "advisory group" formed. This group chose the name "North-Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee". The new group was launched at Church House, Deansgate, Manchester, on 7 October 1964.[5] Allan Horsfall was its secretary and most visible member.[6] In 1969, the NWHLRC was renamed the Committee for Homosexual Equality with aims to becoming a national body for England and Wales. The group met at the Swarthmoor Centre in Leeds in 1971[4] and, later in the same year, changed its name to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE).[7]

London Friend was set up in London in 1972 intended to provide counselling.[8] In 1972, CHE members took part in the first London Pride at Hyde Park, followed by a march to Trafalgar Square, nominally to protest at the age of consent, then age 21.[9] That year, CHE had become the largest lesbian and gay rights organisation in the country, representing a more reformist goal than the liberationist Gay Liberation Front.[10] By 1973, it held the first national gay rights conference in Morecambe.[11] [12] In this period, CHE claimed 5,000 members and some 100 local groups.[13]

In 1974, CHE appeared alongside London Friend in a documentary titled Speak for Yourself produced by London Weekend Television. At this time, the organisation's offices were at 22 Great Windmill Street, London. The offices of London Friend were at 47 Church St, London NW8. The organisations worked closely together through social events. CHE at the time had 4000 members and was involved in campaigns and politics, whereas Friend was a counselling service.[14] It organised a national Homosexual Equality Rally in London.[15] The rally was supported by the women's movement and people from ethnic minorities.[16] 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.[16] Those who turned out for the rally did so to support the extension of constitutional rights and universal values to lesbian and gay people.[16] CHE and London Friend shared offices and had close links until 1974.[14] Friend was separated from CHE in 1975.[2]

In May 1974, CHE’s Working Party on Law Reform proposed lowering the age of consent to sixteen, or twelve in some legal cases.[17][18] At the time 200-300 youth, mostly young men between 16-20 years old, were being prosecuted for consensual homosexual acts every year.[17] After internal review, in 1973, the idea of twelve for age of consent was dropped.[17] In 1972, there was movement by heterosexual activists to make their age of consent fourteen.[17] In 1977, CHE passed a resolution at its conference, “supported by the vast majority of delegates”, which condemned press harassment of the Paedophile Information Exchange.[19][20][21]

At a fringe meeting of the organisation held in Coventry in 1978, a new separate international organisation was formed, named ILGA, which later became International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.[22]

In 1979, its offices were moved from Manchester to London. In the 1980s, the group campaigned for further law reform and on issues such as Section 28. That decade, the CHE decided to focus on campaigning and diverted its attention away from local groups; this led to a loss in membership during the decade.[2]

In 2005, the organisation received a substantial bequest from a former member, Derek Oyston of Gateshead.[23] In early 2009, the organisation was campaigning to prevent cases of historic child sex abuse being prosecuted if raised more than five years after the young person gained age of majority; this, alongside issues relating to CHE's membership, "governance, constitution, electoral process policy-making process [and] financial transparency" led to its being disaffiliated from Liberty.[24]

Lord Smith of Finsbury became a vice-president of CHE in February 2009.[25] In 2010, the organisation commissioned a book titled Amiable Warriors: A Space to Breathe, 1954 - 1973, by Peter Scott-Presland to write their own account of the organisation's history.[26]

The organisation received the 2014 Alan Turing Memorial Award as part of the Homo Heroes Awards ceremony organised by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.[27] From 2015, the organisation has stated on its page that it "no longer has the resources to offer assistance to individuals experiencing discrimination, whether in the UK or elsewhere."[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DANGO RECORDS". Database of Archives of Non-Government Organisations (DANGO). University of Birmingham. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The history of CHE". 10 October 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  3. ^ (accessed 13 July 2023)
  4. ^ a b "Rainbow Plaque Trail". Leeds Civic Trust. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  5. ^ Horsfall, Allan (2011). ""Battling for Wolfenden"". In Cant, Bob; Hemmings, Susan (eds.). Radical Records: Thirty Years of Lesbian and Gay History, 1957-1987. London: Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 9780415591140.
  6. ^ Edsall, Nicholas C. (2006). Toward Stonewall: Homosexuality and Society in the Modern Western World. University of Virginia Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-8139-2543-1.
  7. ^ Brittain, Victoria (28 August 1971). "An alternative to sexual shame: Impact of the new militancy among homosexual groups". The Times. London. p. 12.
  8. ^ Duffy, Nick (2 June 2016). "London LGBT charity honoured with Queen's Award for Voluntary Service". Pink News. Pink News. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  9. ^ "History of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality". Stonewall. 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  10. ^ Robinson, Lucy (19 July 2013). Gay Men and the Left in Post-war Britain: How the Personal Got Political. Manchester University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-84779-233-4.
  11. ^ The archives of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality LSE blog by Dr Clifford Williams on 50th Anniversary of 1st National Conference (accessed 13 July 2023)
  12. ^ Chartres, John (9 April 1973). "Homosexuals seek revision of discriminatory laws". The Times. London. p. 2.
  13. ^ Weeks, Jeffrey (1977). Coming out: homosexual politics in Britain, from the nineteenth century to the present. London: Quartet Books. p. 210. ISBN 0-7043-3175-6.
  14. ^ a b "Speak for yourself, Gay's The Word". British Film Institute. London Weekend TV 1974. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  15. ^ Addison, Paul, & Jones, Harriet. (2008). A Companion to Contemporary Britain, 1939-2000. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p.394. ISBN 0-470-99619-6
  16. ^ a b c Hunt, Lynn; Thomas R. Martin; et al. (2008). The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. C Since 1740. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
  17. ^ a b c d Waites, Matthew (2005). The age of consent: young people, sexuality, and citizenship. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-2173-4. pp. 132 and 243, Note 6.6.
  18. ^ Gay News, no. 46, 9 May 1974, p.3 – 'CHE Report angers reformers'.
  19. ^ de Castella, Tom. "How did the pro-paedophile group PIE exist openly for 10 years?". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Paedophile talks backed by homosexuals". The Times. London. 30 August 1977. Archived from the original on 8 January 2017.
  21. ^ "Britain's Apologists For Child Abuse". Standpoint. Archived from the original on 12 September 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  22. ^ Paternotte, David. "The history of ILGA: 1978/2012". ILGA. ILGA. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  23. ^ Ross Burgess. "CHE > Derek Oyston". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  24. ^ Green, Jessica (16 July 2009). "Campaign for Homosexual Equality disaffiliated from Liberty". PinkNews. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2020 – via Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ "CHE > In the news". Archived from the original on 28 February 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  26. ^ Amiable Warriors Volume One, Chapter 2; "Celebration of the life of Allan Horsfall", Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
  27. ^ "I need a (Homo) Hero! Manchester's LGBT stars honoured in awards". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  28. ^ "Campaign for Homosexual Equality". Campaign for Homosexual Equality. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.

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