Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s there was an escalation of hate crimes towards the gay community this alongside a rise in gay and bisexual man being persecuted by the criminal justice system for consensual behaviour between adults. On May 10th, 1990 gay actor Michael Boothe was kicked to death in a homophobic attack a days later a group of 35 activists met to discuss how they could protect themselves and prevent further attacks.
The group formed Outrage! inspired by the suffragettes and the American Black Civil Rights movement. Outrage! ran from 1990 to 2011 and was the longest running all volunteer, non-hierarchical grassroots, democratic movement. The group had no leaders or paid staff and were funded entirely by donations from supporters. Weekly meetings were held and were open to every LGBT person who wanted to attend. The groups initially focused on how to prevent homophobic violence, law and policing through non-violent demonstrations.
On June 7th, 1990 Outrage! organised a protest against the entrapment of gay men by undercover police officers who pretended to offer public sex to gay men who were arrested when they accepted. The protest took part outside the Hyde Park public toilets as this was the epicentre for the arrests. Protesters chanted ‘Protection not Persecution’ and ‘Policing without Prejudice’. Later that year Outrage! organised a ‘kiss-in’ at Piccadilly Park to protest the arrests of gay men who dared kiss in public.
In 1994 Parliament held a vote on whether to make the age of consent for homosexuals equal to heterosexuals. The vote failed to pass and the peaceful protest Outrage! members took part in descended into a riot angry that their representatives had voted against their human rights. In 1998 Outrage! were instrumental in preventing the Bolton 7 from receiving custodial sentences. The seven men were arrested, charged, and found guilty of gross indecency under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 for behaviour that was legal for heterosexuals. Outrage! gathered 400 letters of support from MP’s, Bishops, and human rights groups resulting in the groups freedom. The age of consent was finally equalised in 2001 and group gay sex was finally legalised.
In 1994 Outrage! began to focus on religious homophobia in the Church of England deciding to out Bishops who were hiding their sexualities the group was strongly criticised for this by the media. In my opinion outing is only acceptable if the persons actions cause harm to the LGBT community. There is a long history of anti-gay politicians, campaigners, and religious leaders who have been outed this is important as it highlights their hypocrisy and ends the detrimental acts these people engage in so I have no problem with Bishops in the Church of England being outed based on their stance on homosexuality. Outrage! later claimed that this was actually a tactic to force national newspapers guilty of outing to denounce the act publicly, so their hypocrisy was clear the next time they outed a celebrity.
The groups actions over their 21-year lifetime contributed immensely to all the progress the LGBT community enjoyed in the 2000’s including equalising the age of consent, adoption, and the repeal of the ban on LGBT education in schools implemented by Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Throughout their 21-year lifetime they evolved to tackle a wide range of issues including religious, political, and cultural homophobia Outrage! acted in solidarity with global LGBT groups in their fight for equality.