Stonewall (charity)

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Stonewall logo.svg
Stonewall logo
Motto Equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans people. At home. At school. At work.
Formation 20 May 1989; 27 years ago (1989-05-20)[1]
Type NGO
Legal status Charity[2]
Purpose LGBT rights
Headquarters Tower Building[3] (near Waterloo Station)[4] and other regional offices in Edinburgh and Cardiff[5]
Region served
United Kingdom
Chief executive
Ruth Hunt

Stonewall (officially Stonewall Equality Limited)[6] 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,[7] it was formed in 1989 by political activists and others lobbying against section 28 of the Local Government Act.[5] Its founders include Sir Ian McKellen,[8] Lisa Power MBE[9] and Michael Cashman (CBE).[10]

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."[11][12]

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, Stonewall does not have any regional headquarters in Northern Ireland.[citation needed]


Chief Executives[edit]


Stonewall group marching at London Pride 2011.
Stonewall at London Pride 2011.

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:

Earlier high-profile work was backing legal test cases in the European Court of Human Rights. These included:

Stonewall 'outs' the armed forces[edit]

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.[15] All three services openly recruit at gay pride events, recognise civil partnerships as equal to marriage[16] and enjoy support for gay personnel at the very highest levels.[17]

The British Army requires all soldiers to undergo equality and diversity training as part of their Military Annual Training Tests and stress tolerance,[18] specifically citing gay examples in training videos, in line with the British Army Core Values and Standards, including "Respect for Others", and "Appropriate Behaviour".[19] 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[20] and articles in many national newspapers.[21] Soldiers and Officers have given public support to Stonewall's campaign against school bullying, It Gets Better....[22]

Proud2Serve is an online support group that provides advice and support to serving and prospective members of the British Armed Forces.[23] Stonewall continues to work with all three services in their role as diversity champions.[citation needed]

Current work[edit]

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.[24] 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.[25]

In 2005 Stonewall launched an Education for All programme, supported by a coalition of over 70 organisations, to tackle homophobia in schools.[26] Stonewall's education work also includes the slogan 'Some people are gay. Get over it!' which has been seen on billboards, tube carriages and buses across Britain[26]

Stonewall has also produced research reports in areas such as homophobic hate crime, lesbian health and homophobia in football.[27]

Stonewall also holds a number of high-profile events, including the Stonewall Equality Dinner, the Stonewall Summer Party and the Brighton Equality Walk.[28]


General Election 2015[edit]

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.[29] Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams had told PinkNews: “I’m astounded by this grossly misleading graphic."

Dorchester hotel[edit]

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 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".[4] 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.[30] 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."

HSBC support[edit]

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused Stonewall of endorsing discrimination by holding champagne receptions for celebrities and politicians supported by HSBC,[citation needed] despite the company being sued by Peter Lewis in 2005 for unfair dismissal on grounds of sexual orientation.[31][32] Although Lewis lost this case,[33] he expressed gratitude to Stonewall for its support.[citation needed]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

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.[34] 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?";[10] and Sir Ian McKellen stated that Stonewall should put marriage equality on their agenda.[35] 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."[36] 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.[37]

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.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gay charity Stonewall celebrates 21st birthday". Pink News. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  2. ^ Charity Commission. Stonewall, registered charity no. 1101255. 
  3. ^ "Contact us". Stonewall. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Topping, Alexandra (31 May 2015). "Stonewall chief redraws battle lines with gay rights in law but bullying rife". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "About us". Stonewall. Retrieved 9 July 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "Stonewall Equality Limited: Financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  7. ^ "University of Birmingham ranks among the top gay-friendly UK employers". University of Birmingham. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 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. 
  8. ^ "Ian McKellen becomes the Albert Kennedy Trust's new patron". The Albert Kennedy Trust. 5 January 2007. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. 
  9. ^ "Terrence Higgins Trust's Lisa Power awarded MBE". Pink News. 9 February 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman: What part of 'equality' can't Stonewall understand?". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  11. ^ "About us". Stonewall. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  12. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall chief executive won't be 'jumped into' gay marriage position". Pink News. Archived from the original on 2010-10-01. Retrieved 2010-10-01. 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." 
  13. ^ Windlesham, David James George Hennessy (2001). Responses to Crime. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924741-2. 
  14. ^ "At work | Workplace Discrimination | Court Battles". Stonewall. 
  15. ^ "Gay Pride Army camp attacked". The Sun. London. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  16. ^ "A very modern military partnership". The Independent. London. 2010-03-27. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  17. ^ Rayment, Sean (2008-10-11). "Army's top general makes history by addressing conference on homosexuality". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  18. ^ "Faith and diversity - British Army Website". Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  19. ^ "Values and standards - British Army Website". Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  20. ^ "Pride of the army: Soldier magazine honours gay servicemen and women". Pink News. PinkNews. 27 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  21. ^ Drury, Ian (2009-12-12). "Gay trooper says coming out was 'the best decision'". The Daily Mail. London: Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  22. ^ "It gets". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 8 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "Homepage". Proud2Serve. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  24. ^ "Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme". Stonewall. 2011-10-28. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  25. ^ "Diversity Champions". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. 
  26. ^ a b "Education for All". 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  27. ^ "Publications". Stonewall. 2011-09-13. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  28. ^ "Events". Stonewall. 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 
  29. ^ "Lib Dem Minister and senior Tory slam Stonewall over 'skewed' election manifesto graphic · PinkNews". PinkNews. 
  30. ^ Hunt, Ruth (16 May 2014). "Why Stonewall isn't joining the Dorchester boycott". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  31. ^ Smith, David (7 May 2006). "What happened to ... Peter Lewis". The Observer. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  32. ^ "Peter Lewis v HSBC Bank Plc". Bindmans LLP. 14 September 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  33. ^ Murphy, Megan (19 December 2006). "Ex-HSBC Banker Peter Lewis Loses Gay Bias Appeal (Update2)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  34. ^ Writer, Staff. "Update: Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  35. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Sir Ian McKellen: Gay marriage has to be on Stonewall's agenda". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  36. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall chief executive won't be 'jumped into' gay marriage position". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  37. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall says it will campaign for gay marriage". Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  38. ^ "Lib Dems' support for gay marriage 'cynical', says former Stonewall chief". The Guardian. 16 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 

External links[edit]