Gay rights charity Stonewall has announced it will begin lobbying for gay equality abroad.
The charity says that until now, it has been barred from commenting on the situation for lesbian, gay and bisexual people around the world because this would breach its charitable objectives as an organisation focused on Britain.
It announced today that the Charity Commission has approved its application to begin lobbying overseas.
Stonewall says it has no plans to send staff abroad. Instead, it will work with other gay rights organisations to advocate for equality.
Chief executive Ben Summerskill said that when Stonewall became a charity in 2003, it believed the legislative changes it sought would take ten to 15 years to achieve.
He said: “Having achieved almost all of those legal changes, we’re now in a stronger position to commend Britain’s legislative framework to other countries around the world.
“The dogged support of tens of thousands of individual donors means that we’re one of the few charities in the country whose income has continued to grow throughout the recession.
“That commitment means that involvement in overseas advocacy will not dilute any of our existing domestic activities; we retain our ambition to make Britain a worldwide beacon for equality.”
Stonewall chair David Issac said the charity had been driven to change its objectives after supporters asked it to do so.
He said: “Having canvassed a wide sample of our supporters during the last 12 months and reviewed our obligations under charity law, we’re clear that our lobbying and research teams now have the opportunity to influence overseas without undermining the important work – such as our pioneering Education for All programme – to which we’re absolutely committed in Britain.
“We look forward to working with other groups seeking to deliver change internationally. As Stonewall will seek to influence from within the UK our focus will, we hope, complement the work of others.”
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has advocated for equal rights around the world, welcomed the announcement.
He said: “It will add to the range of people and organisations who are advocating for LGBT rights around the world. That can only be a good thing.”
But Mr Tatchell also criticised Stonewall, claiming that it fails to help individuals suffering harassment, discrimination and violence in Britain.
He said: “Every year, hundreds of people approach Stonewall [through its helpline] with requests for help. Many of them say they don’t get the support they need despite its multi-million pound resources.
“Those people come to me but I’m just one person with an assistant and we can’t cope with the volume.”
A Stonewall spokesman knocked back the criticism, saying that the charity receives 8,800 calls to its helpline annually, with a review of the first six months of this year finding that 98 per cent of callers would use the service again and the same proportion would recommend the service to a friend.