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The First Step's Towards Equality

The Lasting Impact of the Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall Riots

While the Stonewall riots took place in New York, it laid the foundations for change not only in the USA, but other nations including the UK. Two of the biggest pillars within the LGBTQ+ movement are unity and inclusion, and many of us hold the Stonewall riots of 1969 as a foundation for the global aspect of the community we now celebrate today. Movements such as the GLF, that formed following the Stonewall Riots, encouraged parallel movements in the UK. The bravery and solidarity shown by those at Stonewall inspired a pride that many had never known before and a passion to gain the equal rights they deserved.

Figures such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (leaders of the Stonewall Riots) have stood as inspiration for all those who seek justice, even playing a vital role in the progress of the Transgender movement. The defiant stand made against the police raid on the Stonewall Inn (a popular Gay Club) in June 1969 has shown all within the LGBTQ+ community since, that their voices can be heard.

A Brief History of Gay Rights in the UK

By the time of the Riots, the UK had only taken one step towards achieving gay rights, and it was extremely limited. The 1967 Sexual Offences Act ‘partially legalised same-sex acts’ conducted in private, and this was only passed for Scotland in 1980 and in Northern Ireland by 1981. In fact, laws that criminalised same sex relationships were far more common in the UK, dating back hundreds of years.

The first anti-gay law to be passed in England was under the rule of none other than Henry VIII – a man who’s own romantic life hardly placed him in any position to pass judgement on others! Nevertheless, The Buggery Act of 1533 targeted gay men for persecution. Female homosexuality was never directly targeted in law, however this was not due to leniency. In 1921 parliament decided passing a law of this nature may have encouraged women to participate in homosexuality - a clear misunderstanding of how sexual orientation works!

Following the Stonewall Riots

The first Pride marches were organised in 1972 for the UK. The development of an organised voice and community has helped the progression and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ movement exponentially, although it has remained a long and hard journey. In 1994 the age of consent for homosexuals was reduced from 21 to 18, and then to 16 in 2001. A milestone in the development of gay rights in the UK came in 2013 when The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed, and by the end of 2014 all within England, Scotland and Wales were free to marry whoever they loved. This has only just extended to Northern Ireland in 2020, meaning as of today all homosexuals within the UK are legally free to marry.

While these years have been painful for those denied the freedoms of their fellow citizens, it marks a rapid progression in reform compared to what came before the Stonewall Riots. This powerful journey towards a better tomorrow took it's first steps in 1969, and with Pride Month celebrated every June continues to march towards a better future.


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