Saturday, 11 July 2009


It all started 20 years ago when a group of activists met in the kitchen of Ian McKellen. They were moved by a shared revulsion at section 28 of the Local Government Act, passed in the dying years of the Thatcher era. It banned councils from brainwashing children into being gay - as if that were something town halls could or would do - and enshrined bigotry in the law of the land by prohibiting the presentation of homosexuality as "a pretended family relationship".

Sir Ian, as he was not yet, saw such bullying was possible only as long as gay life was lived in the closet, so he announced his own orientation and spoke out. That took courage, for open homosexuality was still regarded as incompatible with being in the public spotlight. But one man's bravery could not stop the law, and so the kitchen cabinet - including Michael Cashman, Lisa Power and many others - created a campaigning outfit.

Dubbed Stonewall - to signal doggedness, and to commemorate the New York riots in which gay protestors had fought back against police brutality two decades before - it called for full legal rights, which still seemed a loony-left pipe dream. But with gays in the military, civil partnerships and an equalised age of consent - not to mention repeal of section 28 - it is no pipe dream today.

Stonewall has led the way with each reform - pressing ministers, and taking test cases to court. In cricketing terms "Stonewall" has become a misnomer, given the staggering run rate achieved by this small lobby group.

the guardian, 26th May 2009