Campaign for Homosexual Equality

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Campaign for Homosexual Equality
CHE logo.png
CHE logo
Founded 1964
Founder Allan Horsfall and Colin Harvey
Origins Homosexual Law Reform Society
Formerly called
North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee

The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) is one of the oldest gay rights organisations in the United Kingdom. It is a membership organisation which aims to promote legal and social equality for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in England and Wales.[1][2] CHE was one of the two main English gay rights organisations of the 1970s, along with the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), but during the 1980s organisations such as Stonewall and OutRage! became more influential.[3][4][5] CHE had 2,800 members and 60 local groups by 1972. At its peak in the middle 1970s it was claiming 5,000 members and some 100 local groups. By the 1990s its membership had diminished.[6] CHE's activities included pressing for law reforms, providing educational material for use in schools, and attempting to influence the provision of medical, psychiatric and social services. Since the 1980s, CHE has continued to campaign, although with reduced membership the range of its activities have been greatly reduced.


Plaque commemorating the Committee for Homosexual Equality on a former meeting place in Leeds

CHE grew out of the North Western branch of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS), the North Western Homosexual Law Reform Committee (NWHLRC). NWHLRC was founded in Manchester by Allan Horsfall and Colin Harvey in 1964. The formal launch took place at a public meeting on 7 October 1964 at Church House in Manchester. After the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into force,[7] the London-based Homosexual Law Reform Society was thought by many to have achieved its aims.[citation needed]

The NWHLRC, which in 1967 had already fallen out with Antony Grey of HLRS/Albany Trust over the northerners' wish to press ahead with the establishment of gay clubs,[8] felt on the contrary that much remained to be done, and named itself the Committee for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in 1969 with a view to becoming a national body for England and Wales (in close co-operation with its counterpart north of the border, the Scottish Minorities Group (SMG)).

Among CHE's leading members in this period were the writer and broadcaster Ray Gosling and the academic Michael Steed.

Change to campaign

In 1971 CHE's name changed once more, to the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE).[9] It raised money to rent an office in Manchester and employ a full-time General Secretary, Paul Temperton, and it set out to become a fully democratic "bottom-up" membership organisation.[10]

In 1972 CHE members took part in the first major gay demonstration in London. On 28 August the Gay Day began in Hyde Park, followed by a march to Trafalgar Square, nominally to protest at the age of consent. Between 500 and 1,000 marchers were reported to have attended.[11]

In 1973 CHE held the first national gay rights conference in Morecambe.[12] Its second annual conference, held in 1974 in Malvern, "signalled a formal coalescence between the separate strands represented by GLF and CHE, and CHE's formal commitment to a policy of militant reformism".[13]

In 1974 CHE organised a national Homosexual Equality Rally in London.[14] The rally was supported by the women's movement and people from ethnic minorities.[15] Where earlier actions had concentrated on legal protection from criminal persecution, this rally was part of gay and lesbian people starting to establish a distinct sexual identity.[15] Those who turned out for the rally did so to support the extension of constitutional rights and universal values to lesbian and gay people.[15]

In 1979 CHE's head office was moved to London.[16]


In May 1974, CHE suggested a basic age of consent of 16, but 12 "in cases where a defendant could prove the existence of meaningful consent".[17][18]

In 1975 CHE's conference support for the freedom of speech of the pro-paedophile group Paedophile Information Exchange caused controversy in the media, with accusations of support for paedophila in parts of the press.[19][20] This continued in its 1977 Nottingham conference with a further motion condemning press harassment of PIE[21][22][23] and against PIE's chairman Tom O'Carroll's dismissal from Open University, while calling for the National Union of Journalists to join their campaign on anti-discrimination grounds.[24]

In 1976 CHE wanted to hold its annual conference at Scarborough but was turned down by the Council. Campaigning was begun urging unions and other groups to boycott the resort. It was a campaign which was to prove highly successful costing the town millions in lost revenue. [25]

In 1977 CHE approached Llandudno but was once again turned away resulting in a protracted, and a very public row between CHE and council officials. [26]

In April 2009, Liberty terminated CHE's affiliation citing issues with "the nature and size of the CHE membership, governance structures, constitution, electoral process, policy-making process, financial transparency, recent issues and commitment to the objectives of Liberty".[27]

Growth of local groups

During the 1970s, CHE established a network of up to 100 local groups throughout England and Wales. These were often highly independent, producing their own newsletters giving details of social and campaigning activities in their own area. Local groups and members had input into CHE policy through the National Council, which met quarterly at different venues through the country and was composed of CHE members elected by the whole membership. Annual conferences also continued to be held; these were major, multifaceted events covering a long bank-holiday weekend and can be seen in hindsight as key moments in the struggle for gay rights in Britain.

Shedding of local groups and concentration on campaigning

During the 1980s, the national organisation later decided that the running of local groups was no longer part of CHE's core function—a decision that was by no means universally supported by the membership.[citation needed] Thereafter many of the groups continued as independent bodies, often with names such as "The [county] Area Gay Society".[28] Following the splitting-off of the local groups, CHE gradually ceased to be a mass-membership organisation, and other groups such as Stonewall and OutRage! have become more prominent in the UK campaign for gay rights.[29]

Derek Oyston legacy

In 2005, CHE received a substantial bequest from a former member, Derek Oyston of Gateshead.[30] Oyston's name was commemorated in the Derek Oyston Film Awards, presented in conjunction with the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival from 2009 to 2013,[31] and the Derek Oyston Achievement Awards to individuals, presented in 2009 and 2011.

History and commemorative events

Allan Horsfall, founder and Life President of CHE, died in August 2012. In October that year, on what would have been Horsfall's 85th birthday, CHE organised an event to celebrate his life, in the Banqueting Room at Manchester Town Hall, compered by Peter Scott-Presland, with tributes and presentations from people who had been associated with Allan Horsfall over the years.[32]

On 7 October 2014, to commemorate CHE's 50th anniversary, a plaque was unveiled by the Bishop of Manchester and the Lord Mayor of Manchester at Church House, the offices of the Anglican Diocese of Manchester, where the first NWHLRC meeting had been held in 1964.[33] The same evening, CHE received the 2014 Alan Turing Memorial Award as part of the Homo Heroes Awards ceremony organised by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.[34]

Lord Smith of Finsbury (former MP and Cabinet Minister) is a vice-president of CHE.[35]

In 2010 CHE commissioned the author and playwright Peter Scott-Presland to write the official history of the organisation and its times.[36] The history, entitled Amiable Warriors, is being issued in three volumes.[37] Volume One, A Space to Breathe was published at the Festival of LGBT History in Manchester in February 2015.[38]


CHE produced a national newsletter from 1969 to 1971: this gave rise to the CHE Bulletin, which ran from 1971 to 1974; also, CHE Magazine Working Party (set up in 1971) produced Lunch from 1971 to 1974. From 1975 to 1976 CHE published CHE Broadsheet. Between 1976 and 1977 a newspaper called Out was produced.[citation needed]


Friend was set up in London in 1971 as a CHE taskforce intended to become CHE's counselling arm.[39][40][41]

By the end of the year, Friend had become a separate national counselling and befriending organisation. As the London-based organisation began to spread across the UK, and local groups grew up, the whole network began to be known as National Friend.

It was incorporated as a limited company in 1987 with the name of National Friend Ltd.

National Friend became a network of groups whose volunteers provided information, support and befriending to lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Local groups were affiliated to National Friend, though they remained autonomous within agreed guidelines, which included a constitution, code of ethics, code of practice, an equal opportunities programme and a complaints procedure.

In 1995 there were 31 local groups calling themselves either Friend or Gay Switchboard.[41]

The National Committee supports the local groups, provides guidance, advertises the work of Friend to outside agencies and holds conferences on subjects of mutual interest.

In 1998, a grant from the National Lottery Charities Board enabled the development of a permanent office in Birmingham where two members of staff deal with administration, publicity and fundraising.

London Friend was separated from CHE in 1975.

Further reading

  • Peter Scott-Presland, Amiable Warriors: A history of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and its times. Volume One: A Space to Breathe, Paradise Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-904585-75-6.[42]

See also


  1. ^ "Database of Archives of Non-Government Organisations (DANGO)". University of Birmingham. 16 October 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  2. ^ "CHE Constitution 16 Legal Resolution of Disputes". CHE. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  3. ^ "Gay History Month Timeline" (PDF). Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Outrage campaigns". Peter Tatchell Foundation. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Stonewall (homepage)". Stonewall. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  6. ^ Weeks, Jeffrey (1977). Coming out: homosexual politics in Britain, from the nineteenth century to the present. London: Quartet Books. p. 210. ISBN 0-7043-3175-6.
  7. ^ Bedell, Geraldine (24 June 2007). "Coming out of the dark ages". The Observer. London.
  8. ^ Grey, Antony (1992). Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation. London: Sinclair-Stevenson. ISBN 1-85619-136-2.
  9. ^ Brittain, Victoria (28 August 1971). "An alternative to sexual shame: Impact of the new militancy among homosexual groups". The Times. London. p. 12.
  10. ^ Weeks, p.211.
  11. ^ "History of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality". Stonewall. 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  12. ^ Chartres, John (9 April 1973). "Homosexuals seek revision of discriminatory laws". The Times. London. p. 2.
  13. ^ Weeks, p.212.
  14. ^ Addison, Paul, & Jones, Harriet. (2008). A Companion to Contemporary Britain, 1939-2000. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p.394. ISBN 0-470-99619-6
  15. ^ a b c Hunt, Lynn; Thomas R. Martin; et al. (2008). The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Vol. C Since 1740. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.
  16. ^ "The history of CHE". 10 October 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  17. ^ Waites, Matthew (2005, op.cit., pp. 132 and 243, Note 6.6)
  18. ^ Gay News, no. 46, 9 May 1974, p.3 – 'CHE Report angers reformers'.
  19. ^ "How did the pro-paedophile group PIE exist openly for 10 years?". BBC News. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  20. ^ "Child-lovers win fight for role in Gay Lib". The Guardian. London. 26 August 1975. Archived from the original on 20 October 2015.
  21. ^ "Britain's Apologists For Child Abuse". Standpoint. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  22. ^ "Paedophile talks backed by homosexuals". The Times. London. 30 August 1977. Archived from the original on 1 November 2015.
  23. ^ Thomson, Mathew (28 November 2013). Lost Freedom: The Landscape of the Child and the British Post-War Settlement. OUP. ISBN 9780191665097.
  24. ^ "Gays join PIE fight". The Guardian. 24 September 1977. Archived from the original on 1 November 2015.
  25. ^ Shopland, Norena 'Not on our seafront’ from Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales, Seren Books, 2017
  26. ^ Shopland, 2017
  27. ^ Green, Jessica (16 July 2009). "Campaign for Homosexual Equality disaffiliated from Liberty". Pink News. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  28. ^ Usage of "XXX Area Gay Society":
    • Mr John Vincent (28 February 2014). LGBT People and the UK Cultural Sector: The Response of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Heritage since 1950. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-4724-0331-5.
    • Martin Foreman (1 March 2009). The Butterfly's Wing. Lethe Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-59021-129-8.
    • Richard Coles (16 October 2014). Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit. Orion. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-297-87031-9.
  29. ^ Lucy Robinson (30 November 2011). Gay men and the Left in post-war Britain: How the personal got political. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-1-84779-663-9.
  30. ^ Ross Burgess. "CHE > Derek Oyston". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  31. ^ Ross Burgess. "CHE > The Derek Oyston CHE Film Awards". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  32. ^ Amiable Warriors Volume One, Chapter 2; "Celebration of the life of Allan Horsfall", Campaign for Homosexual Equality, cited by "Alan Horsfall" article on the UK LGBT Archive wiki.
  33. ^ "Gay rights plaque unveiled at Manchester movement's 50th birthday – but bishop warns there's still long way to go". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  34. ^ "I need a (Homo) Hero! Manchester's LGBT stars honoured in awards". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  35. ^ "Campaign for Homosexual Equality". Campaign for Homosexual Equality. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  36. ^ Ross Burgess. "CHE > New book about CHE and its times". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  37. ^ Ross Burgess. "Amiable Warriors by Peter Scott-Presland". Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  38. ^ "Amiable Warriors: the history of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality". First National Festival of LGBT History. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  39. ^ "About us". 30 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  40. ^ "London Friend". London Friend. 25 August 2009. Archived from the original on 8 July 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  41. ^ a b "London School of Economics and Political Science Archives catalogue". Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  42. ^ "Amiable Warriors". 8 March 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2015.

External links

  • CHE official web site
  • History of Gay Rights campaigning in Manchester
  • Unofficial history of CHE by Ray Gosling
  • Catalogue of the papers of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality at the Archives Division of the London School of Economics
  • Archive catalogue of the Lancaster and Morecambe CHE Branch
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