What you can do
Ian McKellen on his way to meet Prime Minister John Major in 1991

Key dates for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality

LGBT Timeline

This is an overview of key dates in not just Stonewall's history but in the development of lesbian, gay, bi and trans history in terms of social, political and legislative change, representation and visibility.

1950 - 1959


  • Roberta Cowell is the first known British trans woman to undergo reassignment surgery and have her birth certificate changed.


  • The Wolfenden Committee is formed after successions of well-known men are convicted of ‘indecency’, calling into question the legitimacy of the law.


  • The Wolfenden Committee publishes a report, recommending that ‘homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence’. Supporters of this recommendation include the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher, and the British Medical Association.  Despite this, the recommendations are rejected by the government.


  • The Homosexual Law Reform Society is founded to campaign for the legalisation of same-sex relationships in the UK.

1960 - 1969


  • The Minorities Research Group becomes the UK’s first lesbian social and political organisation and goes on to publish a monthly journal – Arena Three.



  • Trans support group, The Beaumont Society, is founded to provide information and education to the general public, the medical and legal professions on ‘transvestism’ and to encourage research aimed at fuller understanding.


  • The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalises sex between two men over 21 and ‘in private’. It did not extend to the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces, or Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, where sex between two men remained illegal.


  • North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee becomes a UK-wide organisation and is renamed as the Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE). The Committee attracts support from leading figures in the medical profession, the arts and the church.
  • The Stonewall riots in America - a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, Manhattan. This key event triggers the modern LGBT liberation movement in the US and beyond.

1970 - 1979


  • London Gay Liberation Front (GLF) is established in the UK. It is based on a parallel movement in the US based on revolutionary politics.
  • The Corbett v Corbett divorce case establishes a precedent that a person's sex cannot legally be changed from that which is assigned at birth.


  • The Committee for Homosexual Equality, keeping the same initials, becomes the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE).
  • The Nullity of Marriage Act was passed, explicitly banning same-sex marriages between same-sex couples in England and Wales.


  • The first Pride is held in London, attracting approximately 2,000 participants.
  • Gay News, Britain’s first gay newspaper is founded.


  • The Campaign for Homosexual Equality holds the first British gay rights conference in Morecambe, Lancashire.


  • London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, a London-based information and support helpline, is established.
  • Jan Morris, Welsh historian, author and travel writer, releases Conundrum, a personal account of her transition. 
  • Maureen Colquhoun came out as the first lesbian Labour MP.  
  • Stephen Whittle, trans-man and prominent activist co-founds a Manchester based "TV/TS" group; a group for trans people.
  • The First National TV/TS (Transvestite/Transsexual Conference) is held in Leeds.  


  • British journal, Gay Left, begins publication.


  • The Gay Christian Movement is founded at a public meeting at the Sir John Cass School in the City of London (later changed name to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement).


  • The first gay and lesbian Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference takes place to discuss workplace rights.
  • At a Campaign for Homosexual Equality conference, Amnesty International is called upon to take up the issue of the persecution of lesbians and gay men.
  • A Bill to reduce the age of consent to 18 is defeated in the UK House of Lords.
  • Gay News Magazine is successfully prosecuted by Mary Whitehouse for ‘Blasphemy’.


1980 - 1989


  • Sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ is decriminalised in Scotland.
  • British documentary ‘A Change of Sex’ is aired on the BBC following the social and medical transition of Julia Grant. The BBC also gives an inside view of the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
  • The first Black Gay and Lesbian Group is formed in the UK.


  • A landmark court case finds that Northern Ireland’s criminalisation of same-sex acts violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The first UK case of AIDS was recorded when a 49-year-old man was admitted to Brompton Hospital in London suffering from PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). He died ten days later.


  • The Homosexual Offences Order decriminalises sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ in Northern Ireland.
  • Terry Higgins dies of AIDS in St. Thomas’ Hospital, his friends and partner Martyn Butler set up the Terry Higgins Trust (which became the Terrence Higgins trust), the UK’s first AIDS charity.


  • UK Crown Dependency, Guernsey, decriminalises sex between two men.
  • Men who have sex with men are asked not to donate to UK blood banks amid the AIDS crisis.
  • The UK’s first national lesbian and gay TV series, One in Five, is shown on Channel 5.


  • Chris Smith, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, speaks openly about his sexual orientation and becomes the first openly gay MP, 10 years after Maureen Colquhoun came out as the first lesbian MP.  
  • The Politics of Bisexuality, now known as BiCon, launches. 
  • Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign is launched in of support of workers in the miners’ strikes in 1984 and 1985


  • Mark Rees, a trans-man, brings a case to the European Court of Human Rights, stating that UK law prevented him from gaining legal status recognising him as male. The case was lost but the court noted the seriousness of the issues facing trans people.



  • UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, introduces Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. The Act states that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".
  • Sir Ian McKellen comes out on the UK’s BBC Radio in response to the government’s proposed Section 28 in the British Parliament.
  • Stonewall UK is formed in response to Section 28 and other barriers to equality.  Founding members include Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman.
  • Denmark becomes the first country in the world to give legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.

1990 - 1999


  • Candlelit vigil is held in London after five gay men are murdered within months of each other. This leads to the formation of OutRage, who call for police to start protecting gay and bi men instead of arresting them. 
  • Lesbian and gay police officers established the UK’s Lesbian and Gay Police Association.
  • The first Pride event is held in the UK city of Manchester.
  • Justin Fashanu becomes the first professional footballer to come out as gay. He later commits suicide.  
  • Northern Ireland holds their first Pride parade.
  • The UK Crown Dependency of Jersey decriminalises sex between two men.


  • Sir Ian McKellen meets UK Prime Minister John Major - the first time any sitting Prime Minister has met with LGBT activists.


  • World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness.
  • First Pride Festival is held in the Brighton.
  • The UK Crown Dependency of Isle of Man repeals sodomy laws (homosexuality was still illegal until 1994).
  • Press For Change, a key lobbying and legal support organisation for trans people in the UK, is formed.          
  • Stonewall begins its first major campaign for an equal age of consent in the UK.
  • British serial killer, Colin Ireland, is convicted of killing five gay men. He is sentenced to life in prison.


  • The UK House of Commons moves to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16. The vote is defeated and the age of consent is instead lowered to 18. An age of consent for same-sex relations between women is not set.
  • The UK Crown Dependency of Isle of Man fully decriminalises homosexuality.
  • TV personality, Sandi Toksvig, comes out as a lesbian.


  • Mermaids is founded by a group of parents brought together by their children’s longstanding gender issues. The UK charity offers appropriate resources to young people, their families and carers, and professionals working with gender variant young people.
  • Rank Outsiders and Stonewall launch a major campaign to end the ban on LGB people openly serving in the British military.


  • The landmark case - P vs S and Cornwall County Council - finds that an employee who was about to undergo gender reassignment was wrongfully dismissed. It was the first piece of case law, anywhere in the world, which prevented discrimination in employment or vocational education because someone is trans.
  • BBC Radio 4’s, The Archers, the world longest running soap, introduces its first openly gay character, Sean Myerson.


  • Stephen Twigg becomes first openly gay MP at the time of his election. Ben Bradshaw, also openly gay, is also elected just 21 minutes later.
  • UK Government recognises same-sex partners for immigration purposes.
  • Angela Eagle becomes Britain’s first MP to voluntarily come out as a lesbian.
  • The Equality Network is formed in Scotland to ensure that the voices of diverse LGBT people are heard in policy making.


  • In June, The House of Commons votes to lower the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16 in England.  However, a month later the House of Lords defeats the clause.
  • Waheed Alli becomes the first openly gay member of the House of Lords and one of a few openly gay Muslims.
  • The Bolton 7, a group of gay and bi men, are convicted of gross indecency. They take their case to the ECHR claiming a violation of Article 8 and the right to a private life. After a campaign by Outrage! and Amnesty International they are awarded compensation by the UK Government.


  • Trans Day of Remembrance  is founded in the USA, and then later in the UK and worldwide, to memorialise those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the trans community.
  • The Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Soho, is bombed by former British National Party member, David Copeland. The attack kills three people and wounds at least 70.
  • Queer Youth Alliance is formed.
  • Michael Cashman, co-founder of Stonewall UK, becomes the first openly gay UK member elected to the European Parliament.
  • European Court of Human Rights unanimously finds that the investigation into, and subsequent discharge of, two personnel from the Royal Navy on the basis of their sexual orientation is a breach of their right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

2000 - 2009  


  • The UK Government lifts the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces.
  • Legislation is introduced to repeal Section 28 in England and Wales. The bill is defeated. Scotland abolishes Section 28. It remains in place in England and Wales.
  • Stonewall’s campaign to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men aged 16 is successful as changes are made to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000. Group sex between men is also decriminalised.


  • Stonewall sets up the Diversity Champions programme to help employers who want to treat their lesbian, gay and bi employees fairly.


  • Equal rights are granted to same-sex couples applying for adoption.
  • Brian Dowling becomes the first openly gay children’s TV presenter in the UK.
  • Alan Duncan becomes the first Conservative MP to be open about his sexual orientation, without being coerced.
  • In the Goodwin v the United Kingdom case, judges ruled that the UK Government should accommodate the needs of trans people by issuing new birth certificates and permitting marriage to someone of the opposite gender.


  • Section 28 is repealed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, lifting the ban on local authorities from ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality’.
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations becomes law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay and bi people in the workplace.
  • Stonewall Cymru is founded.
  • Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, both British university professors, legally marry in Canada. On their return, their same-sex marriage is not recognised under British law.


  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed, granting civil partnership in the United Kingdom. The Act gives same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married straight couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed giving trans people full legal recognition in their appropriate gender. The Act allows trans people to acquire a new birth certificate, although gender options are still limited to ‘male’ or ‘female’.



  • Stonewall launches the Stonewall Awards, celebrating achievements for lesbian, gay and bi equality.
  • In the case of Grant v the United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights held that denying a state pension at age 60 from a male-to-female trans person was a breach of the right to respect for private life.
  • In the Isle of Man the age of consent is equalised and Section 28 is repealed.


  • The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 outlawed the discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education and public functions on the grounds of sexual orientation.
  • Law changes in Scotland give same-sex couples equality in adoption and fostering.
  • Ian Smith, Patrick Harvie, Margaret Smith and Joe FitzPatrick are elected as openly gay, lesbian or bi MSPs in the 2007-11 Scottish Parliament.
  • UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, addresses Stonewall’s Equality Dinner.
  • Stonewall launches its iconic ‘Some People Are Gay. Get Over it!’ campaign.
  • ‘Engendered Penalties Transsexual and Transgender People’s Experience of Inequality and Discrimination’ is published. This is instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of trans people in the remit of the UK’s new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights.



  • Stonewall conducts the first large-scale study of lesbian and bi women’s health.   
  • David Cameron apologises on behalf of the Conservative party for the introduction of Section 28.
  • Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas comes out as gay.            

2010 onwards


  • The Equality Act 2010 officially adds gender reassignment as a protected characteristic.  
  • Stonewall secures an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the ban on religious groups from holding civil partnerships on their premises.
  • 10 years after the ban on lesbian, gay and bi people in the military is lifted, all armed forces are members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme.
  • A new offence of ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ comes into force in the UK.


  • The Department of Health lifts the lifetime ban on gay and bi men donating blood, although a 12-month celibacy clause is still in place in order for men who have sex with men to be eligible to donate.
  • An amendment to the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, tabled by Lord Waheed Alli, permits the celebration of civil partnerships in religious buildings in the UK.
  • Stonewall amends its charitable objectives to campaign internationally.
  • Ruth Davidson is elected to lead the Scottish Conservatives. She is the first openly gay leader of a political party.
  • UK Courts rule in favour of gay couple, Martin Hall and Steven Preddy, when owners of a bed and breakfast refuse to provide them with a double room.


  • Stonewall begins working with human rights defenders to campaign for LGBT rights in over 80 countries.
  • Protection of Freedoms Act is passed in the UK allowing for historic convictions for consensual sex between men to be removed from criminal records.
  • Explicit reference to homophobic bullying in schools is introduced into Ofsted’s inspection framework in the UK.


  • Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act is passed in England and Wales.
  • Stonewall sends Rainbow Laces to all the professional football clubs in the UK to encourage players to show their commitment to making sport inclusive.  
  • Stonewall’s ‘Gay. Let’s get the meaning straight’ campaign launches in schools to address the widespread use of homophobic language.
  • Alan Turing is given a posthumous royal pardon for his conviction of ‘gross indecency’ which resulted in his being chemically castrated and later committing suicide.
  • Olympic diver Tom Daley reveals on YouTube that he is in a same-sex relationship.  
  • The first Trans Pride event takes place in Brighton.
  • Marriages between same-sex couples becomes legal in New Zealand.



  • Stonewall extends its remit to campaign for trans equality.    
  • Mikhail Ivan Gallatinov and Mark Goodwin become the first couple to have a same-sex wedding in a UK prison after marrying at Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire.
  • The Royal Vauxhall Tavern becomes the first ever building in the UK to be given a special listing status based on its LGBT history.
  • Stonewall holds a free training programme for Russian LGBTQ activists
  • Stonewall unveils new ‘acceptance without exception’ tagline.
  • The US legalises same-sex marriage.
  • Mozambique decriminalises same-sex relationships.
  • Ireland votes by a huge majority to legalise same-sex marriage, becoming the first country in the world to do so by a referendum.
  • The Women and Equalities Committee holds an inquiry into Transgender Equality.


  • David Mundell announces he is gay on his personal website. He becomes the first openly gay Conservative cabinet minister.
  • The Isle of Man legalises same-sex marriage.
  • Robert Hannigan, GCHQ’s Director, address Stonewall’s Workplace Conference and publicly apologises for the service’s historic treatment of LGBT people.
  • North Carolina introduces a law – HB2 – which forces people to use public toilets or changing facilities that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth. Many celebrities speak out and cancel scheduled appearances in protest.
  • Same-sex civil unions are recognised in Italy.
  • 49 people are killed and 53 people injured after a gunman opens fire in the LGBT nightclub Pulse, in Orlando. London and other major cities across the world hold vigils to show solidarity with the victims.
  • Justine Greening announces she is gay on London’s Pride day, becoming the first openly gay female in the Conservative Cabinet.
  • President Obama declares the Stonewall Inn America’s first national monument to LGBT rights.
  • Prince William appears on the front cover of gay magazine, Attitude, stating that no one should be bullied because of their sexuality.