Derek Lennard of Galha LGBT Humanists reflects on just how far LGBT rights have come in this country in the time since Galha was founded.
Galha LGBT Humanists was formed in 1979 in the wake of the Gay News blasphemy trial. Its formation was a result of growing concerns about the effect of religious bigotry on the lives of LGBT people, at a time when the legalisation of gay sex between consenting men over 21 in private was barely 10 years old. Many people joined Galha for deeply personal reasons – almost all had experienced prejudice at school, work, and in their communities and families. Many more told of being shunned by the religious communities that they had grown up in. In order to make sense of the world they lived in and the persecution they had experienced, many of them eagerly sought an alternative ethical and social framework for their lives, given the negative stance of so many religious groups. Humanist organisations offered such a stance. Over the years our belief in humanist values and equality for LGBT people became married together.
Galha members have played an important part in LGBT rights over the years. It has not always been easy and we have certainly in the early years particularly faced hostility from religious groups. Central to our battles has been the fight for LGBT rights at home and abroad. Galha members have taken part in humanist affirmation/partnership ceremonies for more than thirty years. Of course these had no legal backing for these ceremonies. When Ken Livingstone, the then Mayor of London set up the London Partnership Register in 2001, Galha members were quick to take part in humanist ceremonies to support this effort, partly to inspire Parliament to consider supportive legislation. Well before the civil partnership laws came into place, Galha was arguing and organising with a handful of other groups, for equal marriage.
Galha members have come on a long journey for gay equality. In our collective memory are the dark days of the 1950s when aversion therapy was legally sanctioned and many of us were imprisoned for being homosexual. In the struggle for equal rights, we have been there every step of the way. We (and many like us) have earned the right to come out loud and proud as gay and as humanists, and we call for the full backing of the law to re-affirm our commitment to both! We will never forget the marriage of our supporters Peter and David at Islington Town Hall at midnight on Saturday 29th March. In all their interviews they stressed that the battle for LGBT rights was not finished and that they hoped that one day LGBT people in countries where today they are persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity, may one day be able to marry their partners too. Galha’s international work is more important than ever.
Derek Lennard is a committee member of Galha LGBT Humanists, a section of the British Humanist Association which campaigns for equality and diversity, particularly relating to sexual orientation and identity.