In her speech at the Stonewall Equality Dinner, acting chief executive Ruth Hunt has both praised her predecessor Ben Summerskill, but defended the Lib Dems against comments he made about the party’s support for equal marriage.
In the speech she also reflected on how much work is still to be done, mentioning issues faced by trans people, and those still affected by prejudice around the world.
Mr Summerskill, who resigned as chief executive of Stonewall last month, also published a series of tweets expressing his disappointment at not being able to attend this week’s Stonewall Equality Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in central London.
He also suggested that Jacqueline Davies, who is stepping down as chair of the board of Stonewall in May, had been pushed from her post – claims which Stonewall has denied to PinkNews.
He told Conservative MP Margot James that Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt had insisted that he was not present at the event marking the charity’s 25th anniversary.
In her speech, she began by praising previous Stonewall director, Angela Mason and then Mr Summerskill: “We are better today for the struggles that they went through for us.
She went on to comment on equal marriage, saying it was “a huge and significant milestone in our journey for equality, it’s a milestone which was possible because of the work and legacy of the Labour Party who secured every single legislative change leading up to this one.
“It was a huge milestone because of the determination, vision and commitment of the Liberal Democrats to carry this policy forward, and even when met with a small degree of scepticism and indecision on whether it was important,” after which the crowd cheered.
“It was down to the personal commitment of David Cameron, the Prime Minister who brought his party with him. It was a truly cross-party effort.”
Reflecting on the history of Stonewall in England and Wales, she said: “I would say that over the past 25 years, Stonewall has been hugely successful. Very few charities can say they have achieved their founding mission. We’ve been successful, but I would argue we are yet to be significant.”
She went on to discuss the work still to be done, and the people still affected by prejudices, and those still hiding who they are.
Noting the work still to be done, she mentioned issues faced by young trans people, saying: “The trans young person who gets changed with a bunch of boys who call her ‘queer’ and ‘poof’ and ‘faggot’, and threaten to hit her, I doubt she would say ‘our work is done’”, she said.
“We are not yet done. Let us not give up. Stonewall isn’t giving up. It’s going to get tougher. Stonewall has a responsibility to go deeper and further than we ever have before.”
MEP and Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman this week advised Mr Summerskill to take a “deep breath, stand back and let the organisation get on what it has set out to do, and if he doesn’t, Ben’s in danger of undermining the work that he’s put into Stonewall, which is part of where the organisation is now.”