In the UK Labour councillor Allan Horsfall attempted to change the Labour Party’s stance on homosexuality in 1959 but was met with resistance. At the time it was illegal to be gay and was punishable with a maximum of 10 years in prison. After failing to change the party’s stance Horsfall joined the London based Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS) who fought to decriminalise homosexuality. In 1963 HLRS agreed to creating regional committees only one was created the North Western Homosexual Law Reform (NWHLR) based in Manchester Horsfall became the secretary of the committee.
The two groups fought tirelessly to decriminalise homosexuality and in 1967 when the Sexual Offences act passed, they did for males over 21 who were not in the Army or Navy. The HLRS took this victory and considered the fight over the NWHLR on the other hand saw it as the beginning in the long fight for legal and social equality. They believed that there was a need for gay establishments in which the community could feel safe. In 1971 members changed the organisations name to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) with a mission to be a fully democratic bottom-up mass membership organisation. Local groups were formed who were highly independent and produced newsletters promoting law reform, LGBT educational material in schools, and altering the perceptions and influence of medical, psychiatric and social services. They also used these pamphlets to promote social and campaigning activities locally this method is still prevalent in activist movements Occupy and Black Lives Matter specifically embrace the bottom-up mentality.
In 1971 CHE created the Friend initiative which aimed to offer national counselling and a service for volunteers to connect and befriend other LGBT people to show them they were not alone. By 1972 2,800 members belonged to 60 local groups who organised the first major gay demonstration in London called ‘gay day’ which began in Hyde Park ad marched to Trafalgar square. 500 to 1,000 people attended predominantly to protest the unequal age of consent. In 1974 CHE organised a national Homosexual equality rally again in London but this time supported by the Women’s movement and people from ethnic minorities showing signs of what was much later termed intersectionality. This critical theory argues that oppressed people are interconnected and cannot be separated when arguing for radical change and must instead support one another. This rally was not about legal reform instead those in attendance called for the establishment of a distinct sexual identity which people could be proud of.
At the height of popularity during the 1970’s CHE boasted 5,000 members and 100 local groups but by the 1980’s membership had dwindled thanks to the decision to disband local groups which was not supported by the membership and the creation of other organisations Stonewall and OutRage! Allan Horsfall died in 2012 after fighting for LGBT rights his entire life he was able to see the age of consent equalled in 2001, equal rights for adoption in 2002, and the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which gave same-sex couples the same rights as married straight couples among many other positive steps.
A lot can change in a lifetime especially if you fight for that change.