Changing laws, plus hearts and minds: LGB lobbying and campaigning group Stonewall
chief executive Ben Summerskill invited OutUK to a special briefing, outlining its
aims and work for the coming year. Adrian Gillan reports.
"Despite this fantastic news we mustn't be complacent," cautions Stonewall chief,
Ben Summerskill, following Justice Secretary Jack Straw's recent announcement of the
Government's intention to include an offence of "incitement to homophobic hatred" in
the new Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill.
The gay mega-charity - now swollen to almost 40 staff and with a beefed-up
communications function to help meet the challenge of changing hearts-and-minds,
now most laws have fallen into place - has worked hard over the last six months
to persuade Ministers to match existing race incitement laws with identical
protections for sexual orientation, drafting proposed clauses for the Bill.
Stonewall's Ben Summerskill
A new offence will help tackle extremists who stir up hatred against lesbian
and gay people. Swears Summerskill: "We simply refuse to accept any more that you
cannot establish any connections between, say, murder lyrics or the BNP distributing
leaflets saying homosexuals are paedophiles, and the levels of hate crime that we
see on our streets. Whilst we are fully supportive of free speech - and the
right of someone to make a public fool of themselves - incitement to hatred
often does lead to violence."
"We'll continue to work tirelessly in the months ahead, as this landmark Bill wends its
way through Parliament," vows he.|
"Our traditional opponents are already spreading
typically lurid misinformation about what the new law might mean and will try
and get it overturned. We'll almost certainly face a tough fight to get these
protections through the House of Lords."
Stonewall's Ben Summerskill at the 2007 Labour conference with Christine Farnish of Stonewall supporter Barclays,
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Minister for Women Harriet Harman and Equality Commission
chair Trevor Phillips.
EDUCATION FOR ALL
Meantime, Education for All - Stonewall's flagship hearts-and-minds campaign
to challenge homophobia in schools - continues to gather momentum.
School Report - the gay mega-charity's robust research amongst over 1100
LGB pupils in secondary schools - has credibly established that there is
a very real issue within school communities, doubtless influencing the Government's
recent publication of groundbreaking guidance for schools about tackling homophobic bullying.
Over the coming weeks, Stonewall's Spell It Out DVD guide - which has already
gone to almost every school in London - will be rolled out to almost every school
in Britain: accompanied by materials for teachers, with yet more resources to
follow in the Spring. Stonewall has co-produced a play, Fit, written and directed by
renowned Rikki Beadle-Blair, touring to around a hundred schools across London,
Manchester and Scotland over coming months. And, following a pilot in Bradford, November
will see the nationwide launch of a "powerful, stark and blunt" schools poster, postcard
and sticker campaign.
Stonewall now boasts over 325 members of its Diversity Champions workplace
programme - "all very big employers, from Barclays to the Royal Navy", beams Big Ben.
And November will see the 3rd LGB Leadership event, showcasing young gay talent,
to inspire others to get to the very top of their professions. LGB students and
recent grads should also keep 'em peeled for Stonewall's 3rd recruitment
guide, Starting Out, to be distributed through Student Unions and uni
careers services this autumn - containing around 250 gay-wooing top employer