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Ben Summerskill resigns as Chief Executive of gay lobbying charity Stonewall

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  1. Stonewall has done a lot of good, but Mr Summerskill will forever be remembered for working against marriage equality and for presiding over a disreputable system of business awards.

    Let’s hope that his departure will allow this organisation to make a new start, refocusing its priorities on key issues which have been neglected by Stonewall, including challenging homophobia in sport and at school, promoting inclusive sex ed, and ensuring proper treatment of LGBT asylum claims.

    I also hope that Mr Summerskill’s successor will ensure that Stonewall changes its mission so as to serve the T community as well as LGBs.

    1. Midnighter 23 Jan 2014, 3:42pm

      That was considerably better thought through than my reaction which was simply “good riddance”.

      As you say, they have a great many criticisms to consider from those they claim to support and hopefully this will give them a chance to put their house in order.

      1. I’ll say it for you, Midnighter. Good riddance.

    2. Why should they? LGB people are fighting against discrimination by heterosexuals. Trans people are fighting against discrimination by cisgenders. The majority of LGB people are cisgender…So they both have different aims and different issues.

      Forcing sexuality and gender identity does not work, to put it simply. A community for Gender Identity people is needed, not forcing trans people into a community solely for sexuality issues.

      1. Paula Thomas 23 Jan 2014, 3:56pm

        It’d sort of be OK if they managed not to work against the trans community.

        1. Yes, that would be best. LGB&T people can work together in the best interests of all parties without having to have a community. We all want equality, so let’s help each other.

      2. Paul Brownsey 23 Jan 2014, 9:50pm

        I agree with Lily. It has always seemed to me that LGB people and trans people have substantially different concerns and that lumping them together in a single organization is a bad idea. It’s as irrational as an organization that tries to combine both LGB concerns and Fathers4Justice-type concerns.

  2. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Jan 2014, 3:39pm

    In 2009, Mr Summerskill told that “lots of” gays and lesbians do not want the right to marry.”

    Now that was the mantra used by C4M and other hate groups including Tory MPs to thwart the bill.

    I concede StonewallUK have done some amazing things for LGBT people in the UK and continue to do so, but it most definitely was NOT in the vanguard for equal marriagehavng come very late to the campaign. Pink News and C4EM were the leaders by far.

    1. Benjamin Cohen 23 Jan 2014, 3:47pm

      Stonewall in England doesn’t do LGBT, just LGB. Just to be clear…

      1. Any idea why not?

        1. Stonewall class T as “gender issues” rather than sexuality.

          1. Paul Brownsey 23 Jan 2014, 9:53pm

            And they are quite right to do so.

            Indeed, given that there are probably still people who think that gay men want to be women and lesbians want to be men, it’s a good idea to confine the concerns to different organizations.

      2. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Jan 2014, 5:06pm

        Yes, you’re right Ben. Thanks for correcting :)

      3. But Stonewall in Scotland does LGBT. Are they not the same organisation? They have the same website design!

        1. Many organisations exist in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK, but operate differently. Scotland has a different legal system, and a different culture.

          Some organisations take advantage of this – for example, the RSPCA will happily solicit donations in Scotland (it is a registered charity here), despite not actually having any operations in Scotland (that’s handled by the SSPCA, who do not receive the donations from the RSPCA)

    2. GulliverUK 23 Jan 2014, 5:31pm

      PINKNEWS ran a poll of 800 readers (2010) and 98% were for marriage equality, hence, my entirely correct statement that he was out-of-touch, further down the comments section. Robert is absolutely right to point out Ben’s, what I will call, idiotic behaviour, because even the polls of the general public in 2005 were supporting equal marriage. Also, he came up with a silly and now utterly disproven junk figure of it costing the £5bn over 10 years (absolute nonsense), and said he wasn’t in favour of gay marriage because it cost too much. He should have resigned then. His evidence to Parliament was … only just acceptable. Let us have the very best leader at Stonewall that we can get, Ben was not it. Sorry about that, but I believe in saying what I really feel, not what people will vote up or down.

      1. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Jan 2014, 5:59pm

        I watched him during Committee hearings for the marriage bill. I wasn’t impressed. Ben and James did a far superior job.

        1. GulliverUK 23 Jan 2014, 6:10pm

          Yes, but I didn’t want Ben and James’s heads to get too big for their britches :) Ben also did an amazing job at the Oxford Union debate. Ooops, Ben’s head will be really big now :D

          Pinknews and others, including the Independent, Guardian and many others have been excellent advocates for equal rights – where would be if all we had was Stonewall ?!!

  3. Great news!

    Stonewall is a worthy organisation, with loads of great volunteers (and I’m sure staff!). Summerskill lost a LOT of good will, and did the same sex marriage campaign significant harm.

    He ought to have resigned at the time- better late than never!

  4. There is an explicit difference between the word resign, and the phrase step down. If you are not aware of the difference, I strongly suggest that you re-examine your vocabulary and how you make use of it. A non-native speaker…

    1. In journalese there may be, but ‘resign’ is a perfectly proper word for describing handing in your notice, terminating your contract of employment, or indeed, stepping down.

      1. Paul Brownsey 23 Jan 2014, 9:44pm

        Nevertheless, “resign” still has the overtones which C30 drew attention to. My first response when I read the headline was that he had been driven to resign in a way that, for instance, some politician whose conduct has been controversial may fall on his sword and resign.

  5. GulliverUK 23 Jan 2014, 4:06pm

    Let’s hope Ruth Hunt is not so out-of-touch. If she is she’ll be gone quite soon – we will NOT allow Stonewall to be hijacked by people who don’t have the slightest clue what LGBT (and YES, I include T in there) people NEED. Patience is running out. And also please remember to concentrate on fixing ALL the problems here in the UK before pissing in somebody else’s pond in the International community. There are already groups better placed than Stonewall to fight for LGBT rights internationally. That you Ben, and that you Stonewall for all you’ve done, but UP YOUR GAME. I note that some grassroots individuals did more for marriage equality than you did, eg coalition for equal marriage, out for marriage, to name just two.

  6. My partner and I were huge supporters of Stonewall in the early days, even going to far as to put sizeable bequests to them in our wills, however when they Came out against equal marriage we were ashamed to have given them any support at all, talk about self-loathing homosexuals!! Now they only seem interested in the political/London chattering classes and are so busy raising money to pay their salaries that any campaigning is secondary. If you want to support someone or an organisation that actually does things, think about giving a few quid to Peter Tatchell, who in my mind has done more for Gay rights in the UK than Stonewall ever did. Wonder when we will see Summerskill in the honours list it’s only a matter of time, perhaps he’ll get an OBE (other buggers efforts)

    1. Well said. There was a sense of excitement when Stonewall began but now it seems barely relevant. I cancelled my direct debit two years ago.

      1. Me too!

  7. Whoever takes over from Ben will need to work more closely with other organisations and take account of what people are saying. Stonewall cannot continue to claim all the glory for themselves.

  8. Stonewall has done amazing work with Ben at the helm. Despite the malcontents (that will always find fault with other peoples dedication and hard work) hundreds of thousands of us appreciate the amazing social strides Stonewall has worked so hard to achieve.

    Good luck for the future Ben.

    1. GulliverUK 23 Jan 2014, 6:01pm

      I don’t mind you using the phrase “lots of us” but if you are going to claim “hundreds of thousands” then I want to see empirical data :-p

      Yes, I too wish Ben all the best, and Stonewall has done some good work, but it fell down badly on some things, and those were core things which we cannot afford for them to screw up. Summerskill gave our opponents ammunition to hurt us in the fight for equal marriage – he could have scuppered the whole thing. It’s no good saying sorry when the damage is done.

      1. Philip Breen 24 Jan 2014, 7:30am

        Stonewall needs to get behind the need to fight the legal requirement for DBS standard and enhanced disclosures of criminal convictions for old, spent, victimless, effectively specific gay offences (e.g. certain ‘gross indecencies’ importuning, soliciting, procuring). The recent amnesty only ‘disregarded’ certain gay offences while those I have mentioned were not included, on the basis that very old case notes would not make clear if children or a lack of consent between adults had or had not been involved. Therefore, even more recent cases up to 2003, even from the 1980s & 1990s, whose notes would make that clear, are all to be presumed potential paedophiles. The ‘pretty police’ entrapment routine was used for convictions when arresting men for cruising or cottaging & who currently have blighted lives. As a consequence, gay men convicted of gay crimes are presumed risks to children & vulnerable adults &, in many contexts, cannot work or volunteer, or are outed before employers.

  9. Thank you Ben. Yes you did make some mistakes but don’t we all. On the whole Stonewall has done wonderful things which I did not think I would live to see. I and many more am extremely grateful .To the younger members. Yes I know you want everything yesterday But some of you have no idea of the fight to get where we are. Keep up the fight with even more vigour but do try to be constructive. Whinging never helped any one.

    1. The problem with Ben is that he is an arrogant man who’s never prepared to even admit his mistakes.

  10. Jan Bridget 23 Jan 2014, 4:54pm

    We all lose out when LGBT activists and organisations don’t work together.

    1. GulliverUK 23 Jan 2014, 5:54pm

      But interestingly when you see the main organisation, Stonewall, failing, it does encourage / motivate grass-roots people to do things themselves. Groups like OutForMarriage and C4EM sprung from, I believe, Stonewall’s lack of support. Gay Pride marches weren’t organised by Stonewall – that came from grass-roots. Stonewall doesn’t go on blogs and newspaper comment sections and defend gay rights, day in day out. It collects some survey data which is useful, but often seems to ignore a wealth of data in support of equal rights, and relating to public opinion, and religious opinion.

      Let’s be honest, Stonewall is more of a support group – it’s not really geared to campaigning. It is too close to government, afraid to rock the boat, and doesn’t attract people like me to be supports. Who organises flash demos and boycotts and petitions, etc., …. we do, ordinary ‘real’ LGBT people. We lead, sometimes they follow. We shouldn’t have to spent our whole lives campaigning.

  11. be interesting to see where he pop up in his next role

  12. James Wharton 23 Jan 2014, 5:13pm

    Ben Summerskill has been an incredibly strong leader during his 11 year tenure as Chief Exec of Stonewall, during which gay equality has advanced considerably in the UK. This is a time to congratulate and applaud, not criticise and attack.

    1. What specific would you like to applaud?

      – disagreeing with gay marriage?
      – refusing to recognise transexuals? (according to Stonewall, being trans is a lifestyle issue…!)
      – honouring a college with a ‘diversity award’, despite being unprepared to act on a notoriously homophobic lecturer
      – teeming up with Paddy Power to offend people with the ‘get behind gay players’ bizarre campaign.


      1. Colin (Queenstown/London) 23 Jan 2014, 5:47pm

        Totally agree

    2. Colin (Queenstown/London) 23 Jan 2014, 5:52pm

      Meant…..Totally agree with James Wharton…

    3. CH Brighton 23 Jan 2014, 6:39pm


  13. Stonewall is a great organisation, yes it’s in need of a new direction, but that does not take away from the great work it has done over many years.
    I would love those carping on below to come out and say what they have done over the years to move LGBT issues forward. Just saying.

    1. Well, a good number of those posting here worked their asses off as well as opened their cheque books to get equal marriage through – and all for the princely salary of zilch.

      If we’re going to pay someone in our community handsomely for lobbying on our behalf, they’d better do as much and a lot more besides. This man was nowhere until it came to taking the credit. He even had the balls to solicit donations on the back of it!

  14. Colin (Queenstown/London) 23 Jan 2014, 5:46pm

    Mr Summerskill.
    I’m sad to hear you have resigned but wish you every success and happiness. The work your organisation has done and achievements under your leadership and guardianship has changed societies views. Whilst there will always be pockets of resistance mainly religious most gay men and women today need not live in fear of be abused or blackmailed. Your work place scheme and schools schemes are fantastic and many lives have been enriched due to your organisation, campaigns, and your personal interviews and writings.

    For me admitting being gay was a big issue to my family but I have 2 gay nieces who in their teens came out loud and proud.

    Be very happy and lots of fun for the future.
    Every Respects Sir.

  15. I am glad to see him go. The advances that have been made have only at the request of the social elite gays, if any benefits came to poorer LGBT people if was a happy accident. Stonewall needs to put some focus into where it can make the maximum benefit for all LGBT people not just for the champagne drinking set in London.

  16. Close the door behind you, will you mate.

  17. Why the fork is there a banal quote from Peter Tatchell at the end of this?

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