Our Vice Chair for Membership and Prospective Candidate for Goring Ward Stephanie Powell offers her perspective on LGBTQ History Month 2019.
On 22nd June 1969 an actress named Judy Garland passed away in London. A couple of days later in New York the Stonewall riots took place.
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous protests by members of the LGBT community against a police raid on 28th June 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. This is one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States. At the time there were not many places that welcomed gay people, those that did were often bars and police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960’s. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into riots. The residents organised themselves into activist groups to concentrate their efforts on establishing safe places for LGBTQ people where they could be open about their sexuality
In the UK, homosexuality (for men) was illegal until The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexual acts were decriminalised in Scotland by the Criminal Justice Act 1980, which took effect on 1 February 1981, and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences Order 1982.
In 1972 the first UK Pride took place in London and has been going strong ever since. Pride parades are now seen all across the UK. However, in 1988 the LGBTQ community had to fight again for equality when Section 28 was introduced which meant that teachers were not allowed to ‘promote’ gay relationships in schools. Many people argued that this prevented teachers from talking about gay relationships and it wasn’t until 2003 that this was overturned. In 2000 the law changed which allowed gay and bisexual people to be in the armed forces and in 2002 the law finally allowed gay people (and also unmarried couples) to adopt children. More laws were changed in the following years, allowing civil partnerships and finally marriage, and in 2008 homophobic abuse became a hate crime.
Rights for LGBTQ people have come a long way in since Judy Garland passed away. However, we must keep up the fight for equality wherever we see inequality and together we can make a difference.