Tower Hamlets, London: The Foundation of Stonewall

A large group of people all in red t-shirts are parading through a street. They carry banners with slogans like 'Some people are gay, get over it'.
  Stonewall Gay Pride parade, London 2015. "Stonewall, Gay Pride London 2015" by chrisjohnbeckett is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A protestor calling into a megaphone

When

1988

Where

Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, London

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 brought in by the Thatcher government, outlawed the alleged ‘promotion of homosexuality in schools’.

Not only did this piece of legislation stigmatise lesbian, gay and bi sexual (LGB) people, it also galvanised the community to action against it.  

… we believe that there would be a place for a new organisation to research on issues of relevance to gay people on a professional basis.

Stonewall founding declaration, 1988

A small group met at Sir Ian McKellen’s Limehouse home, setting out their intentions to prevent attacks – like that of Section 28 – on the LGB community in a draft document titled The Politics of the Achievable. The group of just six men were committed to legislative and social equality for lesbian, gay and bi sexual people. Stonewall was born and soon grew, gathering support as it went.

We the undersigned, differ in much… but we unite in a sense of alarm at the atmosphere in which this measure is being put forward – an atmophere in which the incidence of violence against homosexuals is increasing.

Extract from A Sense of Alarm, full-page advertisement taken out in the Independent, 1 February 1988. Written by Matthew Parris and Ian McKellen and signed by 280 public figures.

Stonewall campaigned on the issue of Section 28 – which was eventually repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003 –  and continues to campaign and lobby for the rights of the LGBT community today. Stonewall became a trans inclusive organisation in 2015 and now also campaigns on trans issues, in addition to those facing the lesbian, gay and bi sexual community.

Major successes include the equalisation of the age of consent, a lift on the ban of LGB people serving in the military, the introduction of same-sex marriage, and allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

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