Stonewall (charity)

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Stonewall
Formation24 May 1989; 33 years ago (1989-05-24)[1]
TypeLimited company
Legal statusCharity[2]
PurposeLGBT rights
HeadquartersLondon, with regional offices in Edinburgh, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales.
Region served
Great Britain
Chief executive
Nancy Kelley
Budget
£9.124m[3]
Staff
165
Volunteers
150
Websitewww.stonewall.org.uk

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][5]

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 1988, including Ian McKellen, Lisa Power, and Michael Cashman.[6] 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.

History[edit]

Stonewall was formed on 24 May 1989, in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act.[7] Its founding members and trustees were:

Originally named The Stonewall Lobby Group Ltd, the organisation changed its name to Stonewall Equality Ltd on 16 March 2004. [11]

Leadership[edit]

Chief Executives[edit]

Trustees[edit]

As of 30 June 2021, the trustees of Stonewall included:[14]

  • Sheldon Mills (Chair of Trustees)
  • Dunni Alao
  • Jean Vanni Cordeiro
  • Catherine Dixon
  • Lou Downe
  • Gbolahan Faleye
  • Ayla Holdom
  • Adam Lake
  • Michele Oliver
  • Andrew Pakes
  • Meri Williams
  • Dr Kyle Ring
  • Mohsin Zaidi

Work[edit]

Up to about 2010[edit]

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 challenged 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 17 years, and former Army Nurse Elaine Chambers approached Stonewall. The discovery of a letter had led to Ely's sexual orientation being disclosed and he was subjected to an investigation and discharged from the army.[citation needed]

In 1998, Stonewall was approached by Jeanette Smith, who had been discharged from the Royal Air Force, and Duncan Lustig Prean, a Royal Navy commander who was being so discharged from the Navy. 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. The case pre-dated the Human Rights Act 1998. 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 the individuals had to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights where they were successful. The judgment of the court was a vindication of the rights of lesbians and gay men and the New Labour government of the time immediately announced that the ban would be lifted. This took effect on 12 January 2000, and a new general code of sexual conduct was introduced.[17]

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.[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]

In the 2010s[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.[18] 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.[19]

In 2005 Stonewall launched an Education for All programme, supported by a coalition of over 70 organisations, to tackle homophobia in schools.[20] 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.[20]

Stonewall has also produced research reports in areas such as homophobic hate crime, lesbian health and homophobia in football.[21]

Stonewall also holds a number of high-profile events, including the Stonewall Equality Dinner, the Stonewall Summer Party and the Brighton Equality Walk.[22]

On the second annual International Asexuality Day, it was announced that Stonewall is launching the UK's first asexual rights initiative in partnership with asexual model and activist Yasmin Benoit.[23][24][25]

Diversity Champions and workplace equality index[edit]

In 2001, Stonewall launched its Diversity Champions programme, a programme which works with over 900 organisations to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people (the LGBTQ+ community) are comfortable in the workplace.[26] This includes addressing outright discrimination, as well as "more discrete" forms of heterosexist thinking.[27]

Employers who pay to join the scheme[28] are given a logo to use on promotional materials and are listed on a 'Proud Employers' careers site. They gain access to a library of resources and may have their policies reviewed for LGBT inclusivity by Stonewall staff.[29][30] Members of the scheme are given advice on words and phrases used in their staff support materials, including a preference for gender-neutral language.[31]

In February 2005, the Royal Navy joined Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme,[32] the Royal Air Force[33] and the British Army, the largest of the three services in June 2008.[34] The number of major employers involved in the programme grew from 100 members in 2005 to over 600 in 2010.[18] Organisations now engaged in the programme, between them employing over four million people include many UK universities[35] health trusts[36] banks and financial institutions.[37]

In 2020, lawyers for a 14-year-old girl and the Safe Schools Alliance made an application for judicial review against the Crown Prosecution Service in respect of its hate crime guidance for schools and its association with the Diversity Champions programme, saying that it was biased in favour of transgender individuals. This was dismissed by the High Court in 2021, with Mr Justice Cavanagh saying: "There is no basis for asserting that the individual prosecutor will be influenced in any way by the CPS' status as a Diversity Champion."[38]

In May 2021, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that it would be withdrawing from the Diversity Champions programme on the grounds that it did not constitute the best value for money.[39][40] Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities, suggested that all government departments should withdraw from the scheme.[41][39] Commentators in the UK press described the controversy as 'toxic' with each side taking increasingly extremist positions.[42]

A University of Essex internal report following the cancellation of two visiting speakers' invitations released in May 2021 stated that the Equality Act 2010 only protects individuals who have undergone or intend to undergo gender reassignment, and not gender identity. Some critics of Stonewall stated that this made the organisation's advice under the Diversity Champions scheme potentially misleading.[43][44] In response, Stonewall argued that the advice was based on the EHRC Code of Practice which had been upheld by a court decision earlier that month.[45]

In October 2021 the BBC aired Nolan Investigates, a podcast series presented by Stephen Nolan, looking at the influence Stonewall has on public institutions across the UK.[46][47] The series was viewed by some as an attack by the BBC on Stonewall[48] and by others as an attack on the BBC and the extent to which the corporation itself is influenced by Stonewall.[48][49]

In November 2021, the BBC withdrew from the scheme.[50] Its Director General Tim Davie said it left for reasons of impartiality and to "minimise the risk of perceived bias".[51] Stonewall responded that the exit was a result of "organised attacks on workplace inclusion that extend far beyond" the Diversity Champions scheme.[51] By 2021, several organisations like Channel 4, the Ministry of Justice, United Kingdom, Department of Health, Ofcom and Cabinet Office also withdrew from the Diversity Champion scheme.[52][53][54]

In December 2021, University College London decided to withdraw from Stonewall programmes saying its membership of Stonewall's programmes could inhibit academic freedom and discussion around sex and gender.[55] Several Scottish universities declined to apply for a ranking in Stonewall's equality league table for 2022.[56]

In July 2022 it was reported that the Department for Education had dissociated itself from Stonewall, and that Oxford University had been ordered by the Information Commissioner's Office to reveal the scores and feedback it received from Stonewall as part of its workplace scheme, because there was “an unusually strong public interest”.[57]

Controversies[edit]

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.[58] Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams had previously told PinkNews that: "I'm astounded by this grossly misleading graphic."[58]

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".[59] 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.[60] 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.[61][62] Although Lewis lost this case,[63] 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.[64] Summerskill's comments were criticised by two of Stonewall's co-founders: Michael Cashman MEP wrote an op-ed for PinkNews entitled "What part of 'equality' can't Stonewall understand?";[8] and Sir Ian McKellen stated that Stonewall should put marriage equality on their agenda.[65] 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."[66] 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.[67]

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.[68]

Transgender issues[edit]

Award nomination protests[edit]

In 2008, transgender rights activists picketed the Stonewall Awards in protest of the nomination of The Guardian contributor Julie Bindel for Journalist of the Year,[69] who had written a piece in 2004 entitled "Gender Benders Beware" asserting that sex reassignment surgery was "unnecessary mutilation".[70] 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."[69]

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.[71] A similar demonstration was planned for the awards ceremony, but was cancelled after Stonewall withdrew the nomination.[72] 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.[73]

Post-2015[edit]

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.[74][75] 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",[76] 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".[59] In 2017, the group produced a document outlining their plan for Transgender Equality in the UK titled "A Vision for Change".[77][78] 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.[79]

In February 2019, Ruth Hunt stepped down amid controversy over the organisation's support for transgender rights.[80][81][82] In June 2020, she was succeeded by Nancy Kelley.[13] 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".[13]

In October 2021, Kelley was quoted in the BBC News article "We're being pressured into sex by some trans women".[83] She said: "Nobody should ever be pressured into dating, or pressured into dating people they aren't attracted to. But if you find that when dating, you are writing off entire groups of people, like people of colour, fat people, disabled people or trans people, then it's worth considering how societal prejudices may have shaped your attractions."[83][84]

In November 2021, Kelley spoke alongside "gender critical" barrister Naomi Cunningham and evangelical Christian campaigner Jayne Ozanne in a discussion on "Banning Conversion Practices: The Path to Good Law" during an event organised by the Middle Temple LGBTQ+ Forum.[85] Maya Forstater described the event as "historic" because it is the first time that Stonewall has debated with those who oppose its position that "trans women are women".[86]

Writing in praise of Stonewall in The Spectator, James Kirkup, director of the Social Market Foundation, described Kelley's appearance at the Middle Temple event and her live interview with Emma Barnett on Woman's Hour as signals of a decision by Stonewall to engage in conversation, and that both are "laudable things to do and entail no small courage".[84] Still, he criticised Stonewall for persisting with the idea that "sexual attraction based on anatomy is prejudice".[84]

Opposition[edit]

In October 2019, the advocacy group LGB Alliance formed in opposition to Stonewall's policies on transgender issues.[87] Lesbian barrister Allison Bailey, who helped establish the organisation, initiated legal action against Stonewall in July 2020, claiming she had been victimised as a result.[88] She lost all her claims against Stonewall,[89] but the tribunal found that her Barristers' chambers had victimised her because of her tweet about the idea of a "cotton ceiling" and her belief that Stonewall had a dangerous agenda regarding gender self-identification.[90]

In July 2022, NHS England responded to the Cass Review by deciding to close the NHS Gender Identity Development Service.[91] Instead, it will create two new centres in London and Manchester.[91] Stonewall praised the decision as an action to reduce unacceptable waiting times.[91] The Economist described Stonewall's response as putting "a very brave face on it" because the mood in Britain appears to be changing against groups, like Stonewall, that hold the belief that gender identity is paramount and towards "maintaining support for sex-based rights and evidence-based medicine".[91]

Also in July 2022, Stonewall received backlash and criticism for claiming that 2-year-olds could identify as transgender. The charity later published a clarification, saying that the original statement "was unclear".[92]

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".[93][94] 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.[94]

Stonewall's policy on self-identification has been criticised by founding members such as Simon Fanshawe, and actor and gay rights activist Simon Callow.[95]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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