First Published: December 2007
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
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.


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 profiles.



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