Stonewall (charity)

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Stonewall logo.svg
Stonewall logo
Formation24 May 1989; 32 years ago (1989-05-24)[1]
Legal statusCharity[2]
PurposeLGBT rights
HeadquartersLondon, with regional offices in Edinburgh, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales.
Region served
Great Britain
Chief executive
Nancy Kelley

Stonewall (officially Stonewall Equality Limited[3]) is a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights charity in the United Kingdom. It is the largest LGBT rights organisation in Europe.[4]

Named after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, Stonewall was formed in 1989 by political activists and others campaigning against Section 28 of the Local Government Act, including Ian McKellen, Lisa Power, and Michael Cashman.[5] Stonewall diversified into policy development after Labour came to power in 1997, a period which saw successful campaigns to repeal Section 28, end the ban on LGBT people in the armed forces, equalise the age of consent, extend adoption and IVF rights to same-sex couples, and introduce civil partnerships.


Stonewall was formed on 24 May 1989, in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act.[6] Its founders were:

It remains a lobbying organisation rather than a membership organisation.[citation needed]


Chief Executives[edit]


As of 15 September 2020, the trustees of Stonewall included:[12]

  • Sheldon Mills (Chair of Trustees)
  • Jan Gooding
  • Reeha Alder
  • Andrew Pakes
  • Meri Williams
  • Michele Oliver
  • Mohsin Zaidi
  • Catherine Dixon
  • Simon Blake OBE
  • Tim Toulmin


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

Stonewall's most high-profile achievements have been in common law and parliamentary lobbying.

Under Angela Mason, it became the most influential LGBT lobbying organisation in Britain. Mason's tenure saw Stonewall support legal test cases in the European Court of Human Rights which included:

Legislative achievements in this period or arising from Mason's work include:

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:

Repeal of LGBT military ban[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. 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.[citation needed]

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.[15]

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.[citation needed] In 2005, the Royal Navy, followed by the Royal Air Force in 2006 and the British Army in 2008, joined Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme, which promotes good working conditions and equal treatment for LGBT servicemembers.[citation needed]

Current work[edit]

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.[16] 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.[17]

In 2005 Stonewall launched an Education for All programme, supported by a coalition of over 70 organisations, to tackle homophobia in schools.[18] 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.[18]

Stonewall has also produced research reports in areas such as homophobic hate crime, lesbian health and homophobia in football.[19]

Stonewall also holds a number of high-profile events, including the Stonewall Equality Dinner, the Stonewall Summer Party and the Brighton Equality Walk.[20]


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.[21] Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams had previously told PinkNews that: "I'm astounded by this grossly misleading graphic."[21]

Dorchester hotel[edit]

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".[22] 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.[23] 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.[24][25] Although Lewis lost this case,[26] 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.[27] 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?";[7] and Sir Ian McKellen stated that Stonewall should put marriage equality on their agenda.[28] 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."[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

Transgender issues[edit]

Award nomination protests[edit]

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,[32] who had written a piece in 2004 entitled "Gender Benders Beware" asserting that sex reassignment surgery was "unnecessary mutilation".[33] Bindel had also written an article in 2001 accusing gay men, as a cultural group, of supporting paedophilia.[34] 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."[32]

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.[35] A similar demonstration was planned for the awards ceremony, but was cancelled after Stonewall withdrew the nomination.[36] 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.[37]


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.[38][39] 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",[40] 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".[22] In 2017, the group produced a document outlining their plan for Transgender Equality in the UK titled "A Vision for Change".[41][42] 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.[43]

In February 2019, Ruth Hunt stepped down amid controversy over the organisation's support for transgender rights.[44][45][46] In June 2020, she was succeeded by Nancy Kelley.[11] 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".[11]


In October 2019, the lobby group LGB Alliance formed in opposition to Stonewall's policies on transgender issues.[47] Lesbian barrister Allison Bailey, who helped establish the organisation, sued Stonewall in July 2020, claiming she had been victimised as a result.[48]

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".[49][50] 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.[51][52] Stonewall denied involvement in the university's decision-making, and defended its interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, on which its advice is based.[51][53]

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".[54][53] 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.[53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Launch of Stonewall press release" (PDF). 20 April 1989. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  2. ^ "Stonewall, registered charity no. 1101255". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  3. ^ a b "Stonewall Equality Limited: Financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "About us". Stonewall. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Our history". Stonewall. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman: What part of 'equality' can't Stonewall understand?". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  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. ^ "Stonewall welcomes Nancy Kelley as new CEO". Stonewall. May 13, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Iqbal, Nosheen (27 June 2020). "New Stonewall boss suggests fresh approach to division on trans rights". The Observer. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  12. ^ "". Stonewall. 15 September 2020.
  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. ^ "Armed Forces (ECHR) (Hansard, 12 January 2000)". Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  16. ^ "Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme". Stonewall. 2011-10-28. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  17. ^ "Diversity Champions". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010.
  18. ^ a b "Education for All". 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  19. ^ "Publications". Stonewall. 2011-09-13. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  20. ^ "Events". Stonewall. 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  21. ^ a b "Lib Dem Minister and senior Tory slam Stonewall over 'skewed' election manifesto graphic". PinkNews.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Hunt, Ruth (16 May 2014). "Why Stonewall isn't joining the Dorchester boycott". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  24. ^ Smith, David (7 May 2006). "What happened to ... Peter Lewis". The Observer. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  25. ^ "Peter Lewis v HSBC Bank Plc". Bindmans LLP. 14 September 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  26. ^ Murphy, Megan (19 December 2006). "Ex-HSBC Banker Peter Lewis Loses Gay Bias Appeal (Update2)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  27. ^ Staff Writer. "Update: Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  28. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Sir Ian McKellen: Gay marriage has to be on Stonewall's agenda". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  29. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall chief executive won't be 'jumped into' gay marriage position". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  30. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall says it will campaign for gay marriage". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  31. ^ "Lib Dems' support for gay marriage 'cynical', says former Stonewall chief". The Guardian. 16 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  32. ^ a b Grew, Tony (7 November 2008). "Celebs split over trans protest at Stonewall Awards". Pink News. Retrieved 10 March 2010.
  33. ^ Bindel, Julie (2004-01-31). "Gender benders, beware". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  34. ^ Bindel, Julie (2001-03-03). "Gay men need to talk straight about paedophilia". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  35. ^ Geen, Jessica (14 October 2010). "Trans group angry at Stonewall's nomination of journalist it criticised". Pink News. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  36. ^ Geen, Jessica (1 November 2010). "Gay and trans campaigners cancel Stonewall Awards protest". Pink News. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  37. ^ Kennedy, Natacha (20 October 2010). "Stonewall is holding back transgender equality". Comment is Free. The Guardian. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  38. ^ "Stonewall to campaign for trans equality". Stonewall. 16 February 2015.
  39. ^ "Stonewall sets up trans advisory board to guide transgender campaign work". PinkNews. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  40. ^ Gani, Aisha (16 February 2015). "Stonewall to start campaigning for trans equality". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 April 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  41. ^ Grierson, Jamie (2017-04-05). "Stonewall calls for gender-neutral X option for UK passports". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  42. ^ "Call for genderless option on passports". BBC News. 2017-04-05. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  43. ^ Duffy, Nick (20 September 2018). "'Trans Women Are Women, Get Over It!' Stonewall takes on anti-trans rhetoric". PinkNews. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  44. ^ Greenhalgh, Hugo (February 21, 2019). "Head of Britain's leading LGBT+ lobby group quits as trans debate rages". Reuters. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  45. ^ Ricketts, Andy (21 February 2019). "Ruth Hunt to leave Stonewall in August". Third Sector. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  46. ^ Hellen, Nicholas (February 24, 2019). "Stonewall drives away backers with 'trans' agenda". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  47. ^ Hurst, Greg (24 October 2019). "Transgender dispute splits Stonewall". The Times. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  48. ^ "Diversity charity in trans row". The Times. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  49. ^ McManus, John (23 May 2021). "Human rights body leaves Stonewall diversity scheme". BBC News. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  50. ^ Courea, Eleni (31 May 2021). "Liz Truss urges official withdrawal from Stonewall diversity scheme". Times. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  51. ^ a b Parsons, Vic (2021-05-26). "Stonewall defends itself after 'coordinated attack' across the mainstream media". PinkNews.
  52. ^ Somerville, Ewan (29 May 2021). "Major public sector bodies quit Stonewall diversity training as trans rights row intensifies". Telegraph. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  53. ^ a b c Parker, Jessica; Lawrie, Eleanor (29 May 2021). "Stonewall boss defends new strategy amid criticism". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  54. ^ Parris, Matthew (22 May 2021). "Stonewall should stay out of trans rights war". Times. Retrieved 29 May 2021.

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