Stonewall (charity)
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Stonewall Charity
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, named after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village. It is the largest LGBT rights organisation in Europe[4] and was formed in 1989 by political activists and others lobbying against section 28 of the Local Government Act.[5] Its founders include Sir Ian McKellen,[6] Lisa Power MBE[7] and Lord Cashman CBE.[8]

Stonewall diversified into policy development for the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people after Labour came to power in 1997. It remains a lobbying organisation rather than a membership organisation.

Stonewall has regional offices for all of Great Britain: Stonewall in GB is based in London, Stonewall Scotland has headquarters in Edinburgh, and Stonewall Cymru (Stonewall Wales) is in Cardiff and north Wales. Currently, Stonewall does not have any regional headquarters in Northern Ireland.


Stonewall was formed on 24 May 1989, in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act. Its founders[3] were:


Chief Executives


As of 15 September 2020, the trustees of Stonewall included:[11]

  • 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:

Stonewall and their contributions to the British armed forces

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.[]

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.[14]

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.[]

In February 2005, the Royal Navy joined Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme, followed in November 2006 by the Royal Air Force and by the British Army, the largest of the three services, in June 2008, to promote good working conditions for all existing and potential employees and to ensure equal treatment for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual.[]

At London Pride 2008, all three armed services marched in uniform for the first time.[15] All three services openly recruit at gay pride events,[16] and enjoy support for gay personnel at the very highest levels.[17]

The British Army requires all soldiers to undergo equality and diversity training as part of their Military Annual Training Tests and stress tolerance,[18] specifically citing gay examples in training videos, in line with the British Army Core Values and Standards, including "Respect for Others", and "Appropriate Behaviour".[19] It considers its core values and standards as central to being a professional soldier.

In 2009, the tenth anniversary of the change of law that permitted homosexuality in the armed forces, it was generally accepted that the lifting of the ban had no perceivable impact on the operational effectiveness on a military that still considers itself world class. The anniversary was widely celebrated, including in the Army's in-house publication Soldier Magazine, with a series of articles including the July 2009 cover story.[20] Soldiers and Officers have given public support to Stonewall's campaign against school bullying, It Gets Better....[21]

In 2015 following the fifteenth anniversary of the change in the law the Ministry of Defence announced changes to its monitoring process and now asks new recruits to disclose their sexuality if they wish.[22]

Proud2Serve is an online support group that provides advice and support to serving and prospective members of the British Armed Forces.[23] Stonewall continues to work with all three services in their role as diversity champions.[24]

Current work

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.[25] 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.[26]

In 2005 Stonewall launched an Education for All programme, supported by a coalition of over 70 organisations, to tackle homophobia in schools.[27] 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.[27]

Stonewall has also produced research reports in areas such as homophobic hate crime, lesbian health and homophobia in football.[28]

Stonewall also holds a number of high-profile events, including the Stonewall Equality Dinner, the Stonewall Summer Party and the Brighton Equality Walk.[29]


General Election 2015

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.[30] Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams had previously told PinkNews that: "I'm astounded by this grossly misleading graphic."[30]

Dorchester hotel

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".[31] 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.[32] 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

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused Stonewall of endorsing discrimination by holding champagne receptions for celebrities and politicians supported by HSBC,[] despite the company being sued by Peter Lewis in 2005 for unfair dismissal on grounds of sexual orientation.[33][34] Although Lewis lost this case,[35] he expressed gratitude to Stonewall for its support.[]

Same-sex marriage

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.[36] 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?";[8] and Sir Ian McKellen stated that Stonewall should put marriage equality on their agenda.[37] 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."[38] 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.[39]

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.[40]

Transgender issues

Award nomination protests

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,[41] who had written a piece in 2004 entitled "Gender Benders Beware" asserting that sex reassignment surgery was "unnecessary mutilation".[42] Bindel had also written an article in 2001 accusing gay men, as a cultural group, of supporting paedophilia.[43] 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."[41]

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.[44] A similar demonstration was planned for the awards ceremony, but was cancelled after Stonewall withdrew the nomination.[45] 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.[46]


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.[47][48] 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",[49] 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".[31] In 2017, the group produced a document outlining their plan for Transgender Equality in the UK titled "A Vision for Change".[50][51] 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.[52]

In February 2019, Ruth Hunt stepped down amid controversy over the organisation's support for transgender rights.[53][54][55] In June 2020, she was succeeded by Nancy Kelley.[10] 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".[10]


In October 2019, the lobby group LGB Alliance formed in opposition to Stonewall's policies on transgender issues.[56] Lesbian barrister Allison Bailey, who helped establish the organisation, sued Stonewall in July 2020, claiming she had been victimised as a result.[57]

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".[58][59] 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.[60][61] Stonewall denied involvement in the university's decision-making, and defended its interpretation of the Equality Act 2010, on which its advice is based.[60][62]

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".[63][62] 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.[62]

See also


  1. ^ "Launch of Stonewall press release" (PDF). 20 April 1989. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "Stonewall, registered charity no. 1101255". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  3. ^ a b c "Stonewall Equality Limited: Financial statements for the year ended 30 September 2012" (PDF). Retrieved .
  4. ^ "University of Birmingham ranks among the top gay-friendly UK employers". University of Birmingham. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 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 2009.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Terrence Higgins Trust's Lisa Power awarded MBE". Pink News. 9 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman: What part of 'equality' can't Stonewall understand?". Retrieved .
  9. ^ "Stonewall welcomes Nancy Kelley as new CEO". Stonewall. May 13, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Iqbal, Nosheen (27 June 2020). "New Stonewall boss suggests fresh approach to division on trans rights". The Observer. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ "". Stonewall. 15 September 2020.
  12. ^ Windlesham, David James George Hennessy (2001). Responses to Crime. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924741-2.
  13. ^ "At work | Workplace Discrimination | Court Battles". Stonewall.
  14. ^ "Armed Forces (ECHR) (Hansard, 12 January 2000)". Retrieved .
  15. ^ Grew, Tony (26 June 2008). "Pride London's delight at men in uniform". PinkNews. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ "A very modern military partnership". The Independent. London. 2010-03-27. Retrieved .
  17. ^ Rayment, Sean (2008-10-11). "Army's top general makes history by addressing conference on homosexuality". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved .
  18. ^ "Faith and diversity - British Army Website". Retrieved .
  19. ^ "Values and standards - British Army Website". Retrieved .
  20. ^ "Pride of the army: Soldier magazine honours gay servicemen and women". Pink News. PinkNews. 27 July 2009. Retrieved .
  21. ^ "It gets". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 8 November 2010.
  22. ^ "The UK's ban on gays in the military was lifted 15 years ago today - PinkNews · PinkNews". Retrieved .
  23. ^ "Homepage". Proud2Serve. Retrieved 2015.
  24. ^ "Diversity Champions members". Stonewall. 2015-08-10. Retrieved .
  25. ^ "Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme". Stonewall. 2011-10-28. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved .
  26. ^ "Diversity Champions". Stonewall. Archived from the original on 31 August 2010.
  27. ^ a b "Education for All". 2011-04-27. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved .
  28. ^ "Publications". Stonewall. 2011-09-13. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved .
  29. ^ "Events". Stonewall. 2011-09-27. Retrieved .
  30. ^ a b "Lib Dem Minister and senior Tory slam Stonewall over 'skewed' election manifesto graphic". PinkNews.
  31. ^ 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 2015.
  32. ^ Hunt, Ruth (16 May 2014). "Why Stonewall isn't joining the Dorchester boycott". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 2016.
  33. ^ Smith, David (7 May 2006). "What happened to ... Peter Lewis". The Observer. Retrieved 2015.
  34. ^ "Peter Lewis v HSBC Bank Plc". Bindmans LLP. 14 September 2007. Retrieved 2015.
  35. ^ Murphy, Megan (19 December 2006). "Ex-HSBC Banker Peter Lewis Loses Gay Bias Appeal (Update2)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2015.
  36. ^ Staff Writer. "Update: Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn". Retrieved .
  37. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Sir Ian McKellen: Gay marriage has to be on Stonewall's agenda". Retrieved .
  38. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall chief executive won't be 'jumped into' gay marriage position". Retrieved .
  39. ^ Geen, Jessica. "Stonewall says it will campaign for gay marriage". Retrieved .
  40. ^ "Lib Dems' support for gay marriage 'cynical', says former Stonewall chief". The Guardian. 16 March 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  41. ^ a b Grew, Tony (7 November 2008). "Celebs split over trans protest at Stonewall Awards". Pink News. Retrieved 2010.
  42. ^ Bindel, Julie (2004-01-31). "Gender benders, beware". The Guardian. London. Retrieved .
  43. ^ Bindel, Julie (2001-03-03). "Gay men need to talk straight about paedophilia". The Guardian. London. Retrieved .
  44. ^ Geen, Jessica (14 October 2010). "Trans group angry at Stonewall's nomination of journalist it criticised". Pink News. Retrieved 2012.
  45. ^ Geen, Jessica (1 November 2010). "Gay and trans campaigners cancel Stonewall Awards protest". Pink News. Retrieved 2012.
  46. ^ Kennedy, Natacha (20 October 2010). "Stonewall is holding back transgender equality". Comment is Free. The Guardian. Retrieved 2012.
  47. ^ "Stonewall to campaign for trans equality". Stonewall. 16 February 2015.
  48. ^ "Stonewall sets up trans advisory board to guide transgender campaign work". PinkNews. Retrieved .
  49. ^ Gani, Aisha (16 February 2015). "Stonewall to start campaigning for trans equality". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 April 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  50. ^ Grierson, Jamie (2017-04-05). "Stonewall calls for gender-neutral X option for UK passports". The Guardian. Retrieved .
  51. ^ "Call for genderless option on passports". BBC News. 2017-04-05. Retrieved .
  52. ^ Duffy, Nick (20 September 2018). "'Trans Women Are Women, Get Over It!' Stonewall takes on anti-trans rhetoric". PinkNews. Retrieved 2021.
  53. ^ Greenhalgh, Hugo (February 21, 2019). "Head of Britain's leading LGBT+ lobby group quits as trans debate rages". Reuters. Retrieved 2019.
  54. ^ Ricketts, Andy (21 February 2019). "Ruth Hunt to leave Stonewall in August". Third Sector. Retrieved 2019.
  55. ^ Hellen, Nicholas (February 24, 2019). "Stonewall drives away backers with 'trans' agenda". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2019.
  56. ^ Hurst, Greg (24 October 2019). "Transgender dispute splits Stonewall". The Times. Retrieved 2021.
  57. ^ "Diversity charity in trans row". The Times. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 2021.
  58. ^ McManus, John (23 May 2021). "Human rights body leaves Stonewall diversity scheme". BBC News. Retrieved 2021.
  59. ^ Courea, Eleni (31 May 2021). "Liz Truss urges official withdrawal from Stonewall diversity scheme". Times. Retrieved 2021.
  60. ^ a b Parsons, Vic (2021-05-26). "Stonewall defends itself after 'coordinated attack' across the mainstream media". PinkNews.
  61. ^ Somerville, Ewan (29 May 2021). "Major public sector bodies quit Stonewall diversity training as trans rights row intensifies". Telegraph. Retrieved 2021.
  62. ^ a b c Parker, Jessica; Lawrie, Eleanor (29 May 2021). "Stonewall boss defends new strategy amid criticism". BBC News. Retrieved 2021.
  63. ^ Parris, Matthew (22 May 2021). "Stonewall should stay out of trans rights war". Times. Retrieved 2021.

External links

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