A look at LGBT history


By Riverside Executive Director John Glenton

Riverside is proud to be in the Stonewall Top 100 companies. This demonstrates our commitment to equality and diversity and is a strong message to our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) colleagues, customers and stakeholders. 

But do you know where the name Stonewall comes from? 

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village – one of the only places in the city for gays and lesbians to meet with minimal threat. When the raid took place, patrons refused to cooperate and instead formed a crowd outside the bar. Over the next few days, riots took place on Christopher Street in response to the police raids and violence against gays. The Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.

Here is a quick LGBT history lesson, highlighting some of the progress made in the UK over the past 50 years: 

1965 – Lord Arran proposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts (lesbian acts had never been illegal). A UK opinion poll from the time found that 93% of respondents saw homosexuality as a form of illness requiring medical treatment.

1967 – MP Leo Abse introduced the Sexual Offences Act which decriminalised homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales. 

1994 – Conservative MP Edwina Currie introduced an amendment to lower the age of consent for homosexual acts, from 21 to 16 in line with that for heterosexual acts. The vote was defeated and the gay male age of consent was instead lowered to 18.

2000 – The Labour government scrapped the policy of barring homosexuals from the armed forces.

2001 – The provisions of the Act came into force throughout the United Kingdom on 8 January 2001, lowering the age of consent for gay men to 16.

2002 – Same-sex couples were granted equal rights to adopt.

2004 – The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was passed by the Labour Government, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

2006  – The Equality Act 2006, which established the Equality and Human Rights Commission (CEHR), made discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.

2013 – The coalition government unveiled its Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, giving the LGBT community full marriage rights.

June is officially Pride month, when celebrations take place globally to remember the journey the LGBT community has travelled. Although these events are now focused on having a good time we should remember that equal rights we enjoy in the UK are not shared worldwide. 

In fact, in 74 countries same-sex sexual contact is a criminal offence and in 13 countries, being gay or bisexual is punishable by death. 

It is hard to believe how things have changed. I think it is important to remember how difficult it must have been for people living in those periods when being gay was illegal. It must have taken a great deal of courage for those members of the LGBT community who were involved in the Stonewall riots.