Unveiling of plaque to Commemorate 50 years since the founding of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) at Church House, Deansgate, Manchester.

Tuesday 7th October 2014 sees the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) a democratic voluntary organisation, founded in 1964 as the North Western Committee for Homosexual Law Reform (NWHLRC) in Manchester.

The plague will be unveiled by Lord Mayor, Representatives of Church House/Diocese of Manchester, in the company of invited guests including representatives of CHE, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation and invited local LGBT community members at 2pm.

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (The LGF) are organising a tribute and celebration in honour of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the modern in lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) rights movement through recognising the formation of The North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee and later The Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

The charity has worked with The Diocese of Manchester to unveil a special commemorative plaque at Church House on Deansgate in the city centre to mark the very first meetings of NWHLRC/CHE on October 7th 1964. This will take place in the early afternoon and is also supported by Manchester City Council. The plaque unveiling will be followed by an afternoon tea in the presence of The Lord Mayor of Manchester at Manchester Town Hall.

Later on in the evening on 7th October, The LGF’s annual Homo Heroes Awards ceremony will be held at a city centre hotel in Manchester to mark the 50th Anniversary of CHE. The awards, supported by Barclays, are now in their fourth year and provide an opportunity to celebrate those people that have made a difference to the lives of people in LGBT communities.
Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, said: “Many people know a little about LGBT history from the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967 but there is a story that goes back much further and one that Manchester and the North West played a key part in. The men and women behind CHE have made huge steps forward in fighting for LGBT rights for over half a century and we are delighted that representatives from CHE, who still have an important voice in campaigning for equality and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, will be attending the commemorations of this historic date in the LGBT calendar.”

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Peter Tatchell, Patron of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, LGBTI and human rights campaigner, said: “The North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee was Britain’s first grassroots gay rights organisation. Led by openly gay people such as Allan Horsfall, it organised one of the early gay law reform public meetings in the UK. Held in Manchester on 7 October 1964, it urged the decriminalisation of homosexuality. We celebrate the 50th anniversary of this meeting and salute the pioneers of the NWHLRC. They trailblazed for LGBTI freedom. We remember and honour them – with pride.”
Ross Burgess, representing CHE’s national Executive Committee, said: “This country has seen enormous changes since CHE’s foundation in 1964, when all sex between men was still illegal. CHE is proud to have played a great part in those changes, both by campaigning for law reform, and by organising a nationwide network of local groups that touched the lives of thousands of lesbian and gay people. We are greatly honoured by this recognition in Manchester, where it all started, and our only regret is that so many of the early pioneers, such as Allan Horsfall and Ray Gosling, are no longer here to celebrate with us.”

The Rt Revd David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, said: “Fifty years ago, sexual activity between adult males was still a criminal offence in England. The attitudes of the wider population to same sex relationships were gleaned from court cases and comedians, spiced up by innuendo and accusation, and fuelled by fear. Half a century on, most of us are informed in our views by our friends, work colleagues and close family members who are able to be open about their sexual identities. That we are in such a better place is a tribute to those who were here in October 1964. This plaque is a modest recognition of that fact and of the debt we owe.”

Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Sue Cooley, said: “Manchester has a long and illustrious history of fighting for inclusion, representation and equality for all members of our diverse society, a fact that we should all be proud of. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality is one of the oldest gay rights organisations in the UK and on their 50th anniversary it is only fitting that a plaque is unveiled to create a permanent reminder of everything they achieved. Attitudes have dramatically changed since the 1960’s, when the CHE was founded, but there is still work to be done in fighting discrimination and I hope people find inspiration in the work of organisations like CHE.”