History of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality

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We are often asked about certain dates in the development of lesbian and gay history in terms of social, political and legislative change. The following timeline will give you these - just click on the period that interests you. There are related lesbian, gay and bisexual history websites listed to the right of this page.

Pre-1900

1290

  • First mention in English common law of a punishment for homosexuality

1300

  • Treatise in England prescribed that sodomites should be burned alive

1533

  • Buggery Act introduced by Henry VIII brought sodomy within the scope of statute law for the first time and made it punishable by hanging.

1861

  • Offences Against the Person Act formally abolished the death penalty for buggery in England and Wales.

1869

  • First published use of the term ‘homosexuality’ (Homosexualitat) by Karoly Maria Kertbeny, a German-Hungarian campaigner.

1885

  • Labouchere amendment passed 7 August (Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act). Created the offence of ‘gross indecency’ and thus became the first specifically anti-homosexual act. It became known as the ‘blackmailer’s charter’.

1895

  • The trials of Oscar Wilde and his sentencing to two years prison with hard labour under the 1885 Act.

1897

  • English edition of the book Sexual Inversion by Havelock Ellis and John Addington Symonds published. First book in English to treat homosexuality as neither a disease nor a crime, maintaining that it was inborn and unchangeable.
     

1900 - 1969

1948

  • Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male which stated that 4% of men identified as exclusively homosexual and 37% had enjoyed at least one homosexual experience in their lives.


1953

  • Kinsey published Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female which stated that 2% of women identified as exclusively lesbian and 13% had enjoyed at least one lesbian experience in their lives.


1954

  • Appointment of the Wolfenden Committee on 24 August to consider the law in Britain relating to homosexual offences.


1956

  • The Sexual Offences Act became law, determining much police activity against homosexuals in the UK for the rest of the century.


1957

  • Wolfenden Report published on 3 September.


1958

  • Foundation of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) on 12 May.


1960

  • HLRS held its first public meeting on 12 May.


1961

  • Release of the film Victim, the most important British film on a gay theme pleading for tolerance towards homosexuals and an end to the blackmail of gay men.


1967

  • Sexual Offences Act came into force in England and Wales and decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age and ‘in private.’


1969

  • Scottish Minorities Group (SMG) founded on 9 May.
  • Stonewall riot began in New York on the night of 27/28 June.
  • Gay Liberation Front & Gay Activists Alliance set up in New York.
  • Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE) formed in Britain.


1970 - 1979

1970

  • First ever organised lesbian and gay pride march took place on 28 June in New York City commemorating the previous year’s Stonewall riot.
  • London Gay Liberation Front (GLF) founded at the London School of Economics on 13 October.
  • First gay demonstration in the UK took place in Highbury Fields in Islington.

1971

  • Committee for Homosexual Equality changed its name to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.
  • GLF organised first open gay dance in the UK at Kensington Town Hall & published a manifesto.
  • First gay march through London took place, ending with a rally in Trafalgar Square, protesting against the unequal age of consent for gay men.
  • Lesbians invaded the platform of the Women’s Liberation Conference in Skegness, demanding recognition.

1972

  • Law Lords found the International Times magazine guilty of ‘conspiracy to corrupt public morals’ for publishing gay contact advertisements.
  • Gay News, UK’s first gay newspaper, founded.
  • SMG launched a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Scotland.
  • First UK Pride carnival and march through London held on 1 July.


1973

  • First UK gay helpline founded in Oxford.
  • First national gay rights conference was held by CHE in Morecombe

1974

  • Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform (Northern Ireland) appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to force the UK to extend the 1967 Sexual Offences Act to them.
  • First national lesbian conference held in Canterbury.
  • SMG bought a building to set up a Gay Centre in Edinburgh (where homosexual acts were still illegal).
  • London Gay Switchboard (later London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard) was launched. It went 24 hours within a year.
  • First International Gay Rights Conference held in Edinburgh.
  • South London Gay Community Centre opened in a Brixton squat.

1975

  • Action for Lesbian Parents founded after three high-profile custody cases where lesbians were refused custody of their children.
  • British Home Stores sacked openly gay trainee Tony Whitehead; a national campaign subsequently picketed their stores.

1976

  • Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (later called Lesbian & Gay Christians) founded.

1977

  • Lord Arran’s Bill to reduce the gay age of consent to 18 defeated in the House of Lords.
  • Ian Paisley launched ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’ campaign.
  • Gay News prosecuted by Mary Whitehouse for ‘blasphemy’ after printing James Kirkup’s poem about a Roman centurion having sex with Jesus of Nazareth.

1978

  • International Gay Association (later International Lesbian and Gay Association – ILGA) launched at a meeting in Coventry.

1979

  • Gay Life, the first ever gay TV series, commissioned for British TV by London Weekend Television.
  • Gays the Word bookshop is established in London


1980 - 1989

1980

  • Male homosexuality decriminalised in Scotland.
  • European Commission ruled unanimously that the British government was guilty of breaching Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to legalise consenting homosexual behaviour in Ulster.
  • First black lesbian and gay group founded.

1981

  • European Court of Human Rights found in favour of Northern Irish gays.
  • Ken Livingstone, the new leader of the Greater London Council (GLC), promised support to gays and gave the first ‘gay grant’ to London Gay Switchboard.
  • Capital Gay, a weekly London newspaper, founded.

1982

  • Male homosexuality decriminalised in Northern Ireland with the passing of law reform in the House of Commons.
  • Terrence Higgins Trust launched, named after the gay man thought to be the first to have died with AIDS in the UK

1983

  • Peter Tatchell, a Labour Party candidate, defeated in a by-election in Bermondsey after a vicious anti-gay campaign by tabloid newspapers and local Liberals.
  • Questions asked in Parliament about ‘pretty police’ entrapment.
  • New lesbian and gay television series, One in Five, shown on Channel 4.

1984

  • Chris Smith, MP for Islington South in London, first MP to come out as gay while in office.
  • GALOP, the first gay policing project, founded.
  • Gay Times began publication in May.
  • Customs and Excise raid Gays the Word bookshop in London, sparking a high profile public campaign to defend the shop against claims of "importing indecent books". (Customs and Excise dropped their charges just before Pride in 1986.)

1985

  • GLC published Changing the World, a charter of gay rights.
  • London Lesbian and Gay Centre opened in Cowcross Street, Farringdon with a grant from the GLC.
  • South Wales miners joined the Pride march to thank lesbians and gay men who supported them during the coalminers strike.

1986

  • London Borough of Haringey's Lesbian and Gay Unit wrote to all school headteachers in the borough urging them to promote positive images of homosexuality to their pupils. A vicious backlash was provoked.

1987

  • The British Government delivered a leaflet on AIDS, with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard telephone number, to every household in the country. The switchboard phonelines overloaded with the response.
  • A South Staffordshire councillor called for 90% of lesbians and gays to be gassed to prevent the spread of AIDS. A subsequent sit-in at the councillor's house by 12 members of the Lesbian & Gay Youth Movement  was broken up violently by the local police and all were arrested and remanded for 10 days. When the case went to court all were released and later legal action taken against the police and the Crown Prosecution Service for wrongful imprisonment was successful.
  • Clause 28 (actually with an ever-changing sequence of numbers) of the Local Government Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on the 7 December.
  • The last National Lesbian and Gay Conference collapsed under factional in-fighting.
  • Pink Paper founded.


1988

  • Section 28, preventing the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities, came into force on 24 May with backing from Local Government minister Michael Howard. 10,000 protested in London and 15,000 in Manchester.
  • Lesbians abseiled in the House of Lords and also got into BBC1’s newsroom, while Sue Lawley was reading the Six O’Clock News, in protest against Section 28.
  • The Norwegian foreign minister protested about Section 28 to the British foreign minister. There were also protests in Amsterdam and New York.
  • The first British national conference for lesbians and gay men with disabilities was held.

1989

  • Stonewall Group set up to oppose Section 28 and other blocks to equality for lesbians and gay men.  Founder members include Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman.
  • Stonewall organised first lesbian and gay receptions at the Liberal Democrat, Labour & Conservative Party conferences.

 

1990 - 1999

1990

  • Direct action group Outrage! set up in May after the murder in London of gay actor Michael Boothe.
  • Successful lobby on the Human Embryo Fertilization & Embryology Bill ensuring lesbians continued to have access to services.

1991

  • Lesbian & Gay Police Association (LAGPA, later the Gay Police Assoiciation GPA) formed.
  • Stonewall makes major contribution to presentation of lesbian and gay rights at United Nations.
  • Stonewall and ILGA given first European Community grant to survey gay rights across the community.
  • Conservative Government persuaded not to amend paragraph 16 of the Children’s Act in order to prevent lesbians and gays from adopting or fostering.
  • Campaign commenced against Clauses 1, 2 & 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill.
  • Stonewall gave evidence to Special Select Committee of the Armed Forces Bill.
  • First Stonewall Annual General Meeting held.
  • Roy Hattersley (Labour Deputy Leader) and Ian McKellen met with Conservative Prime Minister to discuss his party's commitment to gay issues.
  • The Press Complaints Commission ruled in favour of Stonewall v The Daily Star, a landmark ruling.

1992

  • London hosted the first Europride.
  • Isle of Man decriminalised homosexuality.
  • First opinion poll on attitudes to equal rights and age of consent.
  • Stonewall made representation to the Government asking for Rights of Succession to be included in the forthcoming housing bill.
  • Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA) founded.

1993

  • Stonewall launched first challenge to the European Court of Human Rights on the age of consent with three gay teenagers aged 16 - 18; Hugo Grennhalgh, Will Parry and Ralph Wild.
  • The Bar Council & Law Society included Sexual Orientation in Professional Practice Rules.
  • Stonewall & ILGA produced first European survey of lesbian & gay rights for the European Commission.

1994

  • House of Commons voted to reduce gay male age of consent to 18. Huge disappointment that it had not been reduced to 16.
  • Stonewall and Euan Sutherland launched an appeal to the European Court for under 18s.
  • Lesbian Avengers founded.
  • Outrage! ‘outed’ eight bishops, and provoked debate within the Church of England.
  • Male rape amendment debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords and included in the Crime Bill.

1995

  • Gay Times went on sale in high street stores owned by the John Menzies newsagents chain for the first time in May.
  • Biggest ever London Pride - almost 200,000 people attended the celebrations in the East End's Victoria Park.
  • Rank Outsiders and Stonewall launched a major campaign against the ban on gays in the military.
  • Gaytime TV launched and one million tuned in every week.
  • Capital Gay folded with its last issue on 30 June.
  • Freedom FM ran the first ever UK lesbian and gay ‘restricted service license’ radio broadcasts in London.
  • First challenge to the High Court on the ban in the Armed Forces.
  • Launch of the Corporate Employment Discrimination Survey.
  • Stonewall Parenting Group formed.
  • First Lobby on the Sexual Offences Discrimination Bill.

1996

  • Stonewall produced ‘Queer Bashing’ report & survey results.
  • Lisa Grant challenged South West Trains for employment discrimination.
  • Inland Revenue published new guidelines recognising same-sex partners in pension schemes.

1997

  • GCHQ relaxed its regulations relating to the employment of gays and lesbians. Subsequently M16 also changed its policy, but M15 refused to change.
  • Stonewall & THT commissioned Playing it Safe, new research showing wide spread homophobic bullying in schools.
  • The Commission of the ECHR found in the case of Euan Sutherland that unequal age of consent violates convention rights.
  • On 1 May the British general election went to Labour and gave seats to out-gays Ben Bradshaw and Stephen Twigg.
  • On 3 May Chris Smith became Britain’s first out-gay cabinet minister when appointed National Heritage Secretary.
  • New Labour Government recognised same sex partners for immigration purposes.
  • On 3 September Labour MP Angela Eagle was the first British MP to come out voluntarily as a lesbian.

1998

  • Two more British Labour MPs, David Borrow and Gordon Marsden, came out as gay.
  • 336 MPs voted in the House of Commons, an overwhelming majority vote for an equal age of consent.
  • Gregory Woods appointed the first Professor of Lesbian and Gay studies in the UK.
  • On 22 June the British House of Commons voted to set the age of consent for gay men at 16 in a debate on the Crime and Disorder Bill.
  • Waheed Alli took his place in House of Lords as the UK’s first openly gay life peer.
  • On 22 July the House of Lords defeated the clause to lower the age of consent to 16 for gay men.
  • Nick Brown MP became the first British Cabinet minister to come out publicly as gay while in post.

1999

  • On 30 April, a bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan, a gay pub in Old Compton Street, Soho, the third in a series of bombs targeted at minorities by a lone extremist. Three people died and several were injured.
  • Immigration policy changed, meaning gay couples only needed to fulfil a two year, rather than four, probationary period.
  • Law Society proposed that unmarried partners, including same sex couples, should be legally recognised.
  • DfEE agreed to develop voluntary codes of practice on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
  • ECHR overturned the ban on gays in the armed forces.
  • Rail companies finally agreed to give same sex partners the same travel subsidies as heterosexual couples.
  • House of Commons agreed on amendment to the GLA Bill to cover equal opportunities.
  • Dame Butler-Sloss, Chair of the Family Law Division, stated that gays should be able to foster and adopt and the Children’s Society lifted their five year ban on lesbian and gay fostering and adoption.
  • House of Lords ruled that same sex partners should be treated as family and have the right to succeed a tenancy.
  • Law Commission proposed that partners of same-sex couples should be able to claim damages in fatal accident cases.
  • Over 30,000 Stonewall supporters returned ‘Repeal Section 28’ postcards addressed to Hilary Armstrong MP.
  • Scotland proposed to repeal Section 28 as part of the Ethical Standards in Public Life Bill.
  • Angela Mason received an OBE for services to the gay community and appeared in the Observer’s 300 most powerful people in the UK.
  • Reduction of the Age of Consent to 16 included in the Queen’s speech.
  • Repeal of Section 28 included in the Local Government Bill.
  • Ex-Minister Michael Portillo quoted as saying that he had ‘homosexual experiences’ in his youth.
  • Metropolitan police launch initiative against hate crimes, including homophobic crime.


Post 2000

2000

  • Government lifts the ban on lesbian and gay men serving in the armed forces.
  • The report Setting the Boundaries published by the Sexual Offences Review Group.
  • Ruling by the European Court on Human Rights results in the need to re-draft UK sexual offences law.

2001

  • Age of consent reduced to 16.
  • Stonewall sets up the Diversity Champions programme for employers committed to equality for lesbians and gay men in the workplace.
  • Launch of Stonewall’s Citizenship 21 Project, set up to encourage communities experiencing different kinds of discrimination to work together.
  • First same-sex partnerships registered in London at the GLA.

2002

  • Equal rights granted to same sex couples applying for adoption.
  • Alan Duncan became the first serving British Conservative Party MP to voluntarily come out publicly as gay.

2003

  • Ben Summerskill replaces Angela Mason as Stonewall’s chief executive.
  • Repeal of Section 28.
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations became law on 1 December making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the workplace.
  • Proposed Civil Partnership Bill included in the Queen’s speech.

2004

  • Civil Partnership Bill introduced.
  • Sexual Offences Act abolishes the crimes of buggery and gross indecency.
  • Stonewall sets up partnerships with Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG) and Lesbian & Gay Youth Scotland to discuss homophobic bullying in schools.
  • Government launches a white paper Fairness for All: A new Commission for Equality and Human Rights covering all areas of inequality in terms of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age and religion.
  • Stonewall publishes Understanding Prejudice – Attitudes towards minorities, a follow-up to Profiles of Prejudice looking at the nature of prejudice in Britain.
  • Civil Partnership Act passed in November, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples.

2005

  • Stonewall launches Education for All in January, a campaign to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools.
  • Government announces that the first civil partnerships for same sex couples can be registered on 5 December, taking effect from 21 December (after the 15 day waiting period).
  • Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 implemented in April, empowering courts to impose tougher sentences for offences aggravated or motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
  • First civil partnerships take place in Northern Ireland on 19 December 2005, followed by Scotland on 20 December and then England and Wales on 21 December.
  • Government amends the Equality Bill, including a clause to make it illegal to discriminate against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services – from NHS care through to hotels and restaurants.

2006

  • The Equality Act 2006 - which establishes the CEHR and makes discrmination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal -gains Royal assent on 16 February 2006.
  • Stonewall launches Speak Out online, the largest survey of young people's experiences of homophobic bullying in school (May).
  • Section 28 repealed in the Isle of Man.
  • Stonewall holds its first Education Conference looking at tackling homophobic bullying targeting education professionals (July).
  • The Channel Island of Jersey undertakes to review equalising the age of consent for lesbian and gay young people.
  • The first Stonewall Awards are presented to those people and organisations who have supported lesbian and gay people.

2007

  • The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, gives a keynote speech at Stonewall's annual Equality Dinner in March.
  • The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 becomes law on 30 April making discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.
  • Stonewall launches 'The Colour of Your Money', a plain English guide to the protections for gay people in the provision of goods and services.
  • Stonewall launches 'Living Together: British attitudes to lesbian and gay people', a YouGov survey to investigate the nature of feelings towards lesbian and gay people in Britain.
  • Stonewall holds its first Gay Youth Event in June for young lesbian, gay and bisexual people, held at the City Hall in London.

2008

  • Parliament passes provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, creating a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred.
  • Stonewall launches new YouGov research on the extent of homophobic hate crime in the UK.
  • Stonewall’s groundbreaking lesbian health research, Prescription for Change, is launched.
  • Parliament passes the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which gives better legal recognition to same-sex parents.
  • Stonewall launches a new information service to give information and advice to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
  • ‘Serves you Right’, Stonewall’s You Gov research on lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s expectations of discrimination, is released.
  • Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme reaches 400 members, including all three branches of the Armed Forces.

2009

  • Stonewall celebrates 20th anniversary.
  • Provisions from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 come into force to give legal recognition to lesbian parents who conceive a child through fertility treatment.
  • Stonewall launches Pregnant Pause, a guide to the new parenting laws.
  • The Equality Bill is introduced to Parliament in April 2009, with important implications for sexual orientation equality.
  • Stonewall releases ‘Leagues Behind’, hard-hitting new research on homophobia in football.
  • The law changes in Scotland in September 09 to give same-sex couples equality in adoption and fostering.
  • Stonewall holds it’s first ever youth residential event, to train young people taking part in our youth volunteering programme.
  • The Teacher’s Report, Stonewall’s research with teachers on homophobic bullying in schools, is released.
  • Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme reaches 500 members.

2010

  • Stonewall releases 'FIT', the first ever film for schools to tackle homophobic bullying
  • Stonewall saw the successful passing of the Equality Act 2010 which included the extension of the single public Equality Duty to cover lesbian, gay and bisexual people
  • Stonewall secured an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the ban on religious groups who wish to do so from holding civil partnerships on their premises
  • The General Election saw more openly lesbian and gay MPs being elected to the House of Commons than ever before
  • Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’s programme reaches 600 members
  • Stonewall publishes the ground-breaking 'No Going Back' research into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers
  • The coalition Government published the first ever LGB and T policy programme committing it to working towards greater LGB and T equality
  • Stonewall's publication 'Unseen on Screen' highlights the portrayal of lesbian and gay people in TV programmes watched by young people
  • The Government’s Schools White Paper acknowledges the work of the Education for All campaign and encourages all schools to tackle homophobic bullying
  • 'Different Families', Stonewall's report examining the experiences of children with gay parents, is published
  • Stonewall launches 'Gay Dads', a guide on new parenting laws for gay and bisexual men
  • 'Gay by Degree', Stonewall's University Guide for lesbian, gay and bisexual students, is launched
  • Katy Perry, Theresa May MP, John Amaechi, Beverley Knight join Stonewall's It Gets Better ... Today! campaign

2011

  • The Home Office tops Stonewall's 2011 list of gay-friendly employers
  • Civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy were successful in their case against B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull. Hall and Preddy were refused a double room at the B&B on the basis of their sexual orientation
  • Ruby Thomas, 18, Joel Alexander, 20 were convicted of manslaughter for their involvement in the killing of Ian Baynham as he walked through Trafalgar Square in September 2009. The sentences given were extended by the judge by applying the provision for aggravated sentences enforced by the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. This change to the law was lobbied for by Stonewall
  • Research by Barnardo’s finds 57 per cent of the public think that same-sex couples can be equally as good parents as straight couples
  • A Derbyshire couple, who as foster parents believed homosexuality is unacceptable lost their case in the high court. The couple was seeking the overturn of a ruling that they were no longer able to foster children
  • Rachael McMurray from Dorset was named Stonewall Young Campaigner of the Year.
  • The Charity Commission approved a request to extend Stonewall’s strategic lobbying to include overseas work
  • The Department of Health lifts the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. It is now possible for gay men who have not had sex in the last year to donate
  • Stonewall publishes its report ‘Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life’. This ground breaking research highlights, for the first time, the unique needs and concerns of this group
  • Stonewall launches its new job site for gay friendly employers www.proudemployers.org.uk 
  • The ‘Alli Amendment’ which Stonewall campaigned hard to secure is implemented on 5th December 2011. The amendment will permit, on an entirely permissive basis, the celebration of civil partnerships in religious buildings


 


Gay related issues

I am doing a seminar at college relating to gay issues. I am so proud of all the hard work you put in to making everything equal. You are a credit to society! Lesley (female)

Lesley, 26 February 2010

Well done!

Stonewall's role in the reforms above is astonishing. It does us all good every now and again to take stock of what has been achieved and be thankful to those who have worked so hard to make us equal citizens. I for one will never take any of this for granted. Thanks. Chris

Chris Simon, 25 November 2009


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