Comment: Allan Horsfall was the ‘grandfather’ of the UK’s gay rights movement
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell recalls the contribution of LGBT rights pioneer Allan Horsfall, who died from heart failure last month at the age of 84.
Allan was arguably the grandfather of the modern gay rights movement in Britain.
He was first active for gay law reform in the late 1950s. In 1964, he founded Britain’s first ever grassroots, gay-led rights organisation, the Manchester-based North-West Homosexual Law Reform Committee, which became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 1971.
In the 1970s and 80s, CHE was the UK’s largest ever democratic, mass membership LGBT rights organisation, with several thousand members nationwide. Allan was president of CHE from 1974 until his death.
In 1997-98, Allan co-led the successful campaign to free the Bolton 7, who were facing jail for sex acts involving more than two men, under Britain’s antiquated, homophobic sex offence laws.
We all walk in Allan’s shadow. He was still campaigning for LGBT rights until a few months before he died.
His activism spanned more than 50 years. He deserves a Queer State Funeral.
Allan worked for the National Coal Board from 1959 to 1971 and then for the Salford Education Committee. He later campaigned for improved bus services as an executive member of the National Federation of Bus Users.
From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, he was a Labour councillor in Nelson and a regional chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
In 1960 he unsuccessfully lobbied the Labour Party to support the Wolfenden Committee proposals for the decriminalisation of male homosexuality.
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Horsfall saw Wolfenden as a brave but flawed first step; being critical of the limited decriminalisation proposed and scathing about Wolfenden’s refusal to support public initiatives for the implementation of his report.
Although much of his life was spent working for law reform, Allan sympathised with radical queer politics and encouraged each new generation of LGBT activists.
A contemporary of Harry Hay and Frank Kameny in the US, and predating Harvey Milk by two decades, Allan ranks with Antony Grey, Jackie Forster and A E Dyson as one of the great pioneers of LGBT law reform in the UK.
For 48 years he was in a relationship with Harold Pollard, a head teacher and former chairman of CHE, until Pollard’s death in 1996.
Allan was a warm-hearted, generous and much loved humanitarian – and humanist. I will always remember him with much admiration and affection.
Allan Horsfall, 1927-2012