Stonewall Equality Limited

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This page describes the campaigning organisation; for other uses of the term "Stonewall", and for its origin, see Stonewall (disambiguation).

Stonewall Equality Limited, generally referred to simply as Stonewall, is a British LGBT campaigning organisation, with increasing emphasis on trans issues post 2015. It was founded in 1989 by a small group of women and men who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act [1]. It is often quoted as “ten men and ten women” – though people argue over who those ten men and women were. Sir Ian McKellen, Matthew Parris, Lisa Power, Michael Cashman and Olivette Cole-Wilson were chosen for The Reunion programme on BBC [2]. Douglas Slater was featured as one of the primary founders in David Mixner’s book “Brave Journeys: Profiles in Gay and Lesbian Courage[3]. Matthew Parris left Stonewall in 2020, and a number of other key people who were involved in the organisation in its early years, including Kate Harris, have also left disillusioned with the stand the organisation has taken in recent years on gender identity and self identification. In May 2021, Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister, called on organisations to leave the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme. [4] In February 2022 Stonewall demanded the Equality and Human Rights Commission lose its 'A status' and voice in the United Nations following their disagreement with Stonewall's stance on trans issues and as part of an ongoing 'trans war' Stonewall was embroiled in.


Section 28 was a piece of legislation designed to prevent the so-called 'promotion' of homosexuality by a local authority; as well as stigmatising gay people it also galvanised the gay community. Stonewall's aim from the outset was to create a professional lobbying group that would prevent such attacks on lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from ever occurring again. Stonewall subsequently put the case for equality on the mainstream political agenda by winning support within all the main political parties and now has offices in England, Scotland and Wales.

Stonewall is renowned for its campaigning and lobbying. Some major successes include helping achieve the equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the military, securing legislation allowing same-sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28. But in recent years it has lost support through adopting a forceful position supporting self-identification in respect of gender recognition, comparing questioning in that debate to antisemitism, and through the high cost of participation in its Diversity Champions Scheme.

Stonewall Diversity Champions

Stonewall's 'Diversity Champions programme' has offered advice and support to over 600 organisations including IBM, Barclays, Barnardos, DCLG and the Royal Navy.[5]. Companies can pay a fee to be assessed by Stonewall as a Diversity Champion.The cost of being a Diversity Champion has been subject to some criticism.

In 2021 The Equality and Human Rights Commission left Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme. Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the Commission, revealed the decision in a letter to the campaigning group Sex Matters. Baroness Falkner said “As a publicly funded organisation we have to ensure that we are making the best choices when it comes to our budget and have recently been reviewing all of our memberships. We wrote to Stonewall in March to let them know that we would not be renewing our membership, and this has now expired”. [6] In May 2021, Liz Truss, the Equalities Minister, called on organisations to leave the Diversity Champions Scheme. [7]

Stonewall also run an annual Equality Index where the top 100 employers are listed after assessment by Stonewall of how they operate in relation to Stonewall's LGBT policies. Although it is free to enter the Equality Index competition successful companies will have paid for recognition as a Diversity Champion.

Other projects

Stonewall's 'Education for All campaign', launched in January 2005, aimed to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools by working with a wide coalition of groups.

On 23 September 2003 Stonewall was granted charitable status (Charity Registration Number 1101255).

Gender ideology and organisations leaving Stonewall

Originally Stonewall did not promote trans issues, saying that it preferred to leave them to organisations that specialised in that field. However in February 2015 it extended its remit to campaign for LGBT, rather than just LGB, equality. "This change marks a significant moment in Stonewall’s history" remarked Ruth Hunt. [8]

In 2020 Matthew Parris left Stonewall as he could not reconcile himself to their approach on transgender issues. [9] Others have criticised Stonewall for confusing gender with sex and harming lesbian and gay rights in the process. [10]

In May 2021 Stonewall denied that they had approved incorrect advice on transgender issues for the University of Essex, which is part of its Diversity Champions workplace inclusion scheme. The Reindorf report found that Essex University had unlawfully blacklisted a speaker after some protesters labelled her a "transphobe". [11] In May 2021 Nancy Kelley likened so-called "gender critical" beliefs to anti-Semitism. [12]

In October 2021, Labour MP for Gower, Tonia Antoniazzi criticised Stonewall, stating the Welsh government had promoted an "ideological culture" and were "dictated to by Stonewall" [13].

A large number of institutions cut their association with Stonewall in 2021. In November 2021 the BBC announced they were leaving Stonewall. The broadcaster reported that its participation in Stonewall's Diversity Champions scheme had raised questions about whether it could be impartial on issues that the charity was campaigning about [14]. In December 2021 UCL announced it was leaving the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme and Workplace Equality Index, citing Stonewall's restriction on academic freedom [15]. In December 2022 it was announced that the Senior Management Team at LSE had decided not to renew the LSE membership of Stonewall [16].

Sport England cut its ties with Stonewall in 2024 [17].

Directors and Chairs

Chief Executive Officers of Stonewall to date have been:

Cathryn Wright is Chief Operating Officer.

Jacqueline Davies was appointed Chair of Stonewall in 2012, replacing David Isaac.[18]. Iain Anderson was Chair of Trustees in 2023 [19].

External links

BBC Radio 4 programme “The Reunion”, where Sue MacGregor brings together some of the founders of Stonewall to tell their story. Available on BBC iPlayer.

BBC Radio documentary series, Nolan investigates Stonewall (broadcast in 2021) . Available on BBC i Player.


  1. Founders included Michael Cashman, Ian McKellen, Simon Fanshawe,Duncan Campbell and Peter Rivas
  4. Minister urges official withdrawal from Stonewall Diversity Scheme in The Times 31 May 2021
  5. Accessed: 2015-12-17. (Archived by WebCite® at
  7. Minister urges official withdrawal from Stonewall Diversity Scheme in The Times 31 May 2021
  8. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall Chief Executive, "Stonewall and Trans Equality". Accessed: 2015-12-17. (Archived by WebCite® at
  9. The Times 18 November 2020
  11. Essex University 'Review of two events involving external speakers' 17 May 2021
  12. Stonewall boss defends new strategy amid criticism BBC 29 May 2021
  13. Thompson, David (15 October 2021). "LGBT charity Stonewall 'dictated policy' to Welsh government". BBC News.
  14. BBC pulls out of Stonewall diversity scheme 10 November 2021
  15. 'UCL’s senior leadership team has accepted Academic Board’s advice about the fundamental need to uphold academic freedom and freedom of speech in an academic context, recognising that a formal institutional commitment to Stonewall may have the effect of inhibiting academic work and discussion within UCL about sex and gender identity'.
  16. The announcement made reference to Stonewall's approach which was not seen to be in keeping with academic freedom. After extensive and thoughtful reflection upon all perspectives, SMC believe the best way to ensure ongoing advancement of equity, diversity and inclusion, which includes sustaining LSE as a place for the free exchange of ideas and academic discussion, is through not renewing our membership...This is because LSE’s role as an institution is to enable us all to come together to discuss, effect change and challenge through education practices, academic research and rigorous debate.
  18. "Jacqueline Davies appointed Stonewall Chair", Stonewall, 24 October 2012
  19. (accessed 11 July 2023