On International Women’s Day, we count down nine women who you can thank for LGBT equality. To paraphrase a great woman: gay rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are gay rights. We believe the status of the LGBT and feminist movements are closely intertwined – and history tells us there’s no more powerful an advocate for our cause than a dedicated woman.
Below we take a look at nine women who led the way on LGBT rights including UK's Harriet Harman, Ireland's Katherine Zappone, American Marsha P Johnson, and Australia's Penny Wong.
First elected to the UK’s Parliament in 1982, the long-time Labour MP has become so synonymous with the women’s rights movement that the mere mention of her name can set a Daily Mail columnist off on a fifteen-minute rant.
An influential figure in the New Labour government, the MP for Camberwell and Peckham had a say in many of the reforms that helped LGBT people. Her most lasting legacy is the 2010 Equality Act, the law passed in the final days of the Labour government that once-and-for-all outlawed discrimination across all of public life based on sexual orientation or gender reassignment, as well as a string of other protected characteristics.
In her book A Woman’s Work, Harman opens up about how the bill started out as much weaker legislation – and her drive to ensure it was truly radical. She writes: “A priority for me was to get a new Equality Act passed. While it was obviously a good idea to bring together all the law on discrimination into one Act, I wanted to take the opportunity to do much more than consolidate and simplify.
“I wanted to use a new bill to make a quantum leap forward on equality, to strengthen and extend legal backing for and the promotion of equality on gender and race but also on disability, age and sexual orientation.”
Ms Harman opened up about a meeting with LGBT activists from Stonewall as well as other minority groups. The politician said: “I asked them what they wanted in the Equality Bill, hoping for a long and radical list. But I was disappointed: they had no specific demands.
“They all seemed to have accepted that the bill would be just a consolidation exercise.