I recently went to see the play 'Canary' by Jonathan Harvey. The play chronicles the history of the Gay Rights movement in Britain from 1960 to the present day. The title comes from a quote by Peter Tatchell who said
"Women and gay people are the litmus test of whether a society is democratic and respecting human rights. We are the canaries in the mine."
It seems appalling now that back in the 60's, homosexuality was considered to be both a crime and a disease. Some poor souls had to undergo 'aversion therapy' during which they were induced to vomit whilst being forced to watch gay porn images. The presumption was that they would then feel sick if confronted with homosexuality.
In this context, you cannot help but admire the bravery of those who spoke out publicly in favour of tolerance. It is easy to disassociate ourselves from our ancestors who indulged in the slave trade. It is equally easy to laugh at the pompous Victorian gentlemen who tried to prevent women from having the vote. The intolerance of homosexuality was equally wrong but in this case, it was happening in our presence.
The appalling truth is that lesbians and gays were not given protection from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation until the Equality Act of 2007.
I for one, feel very ashamed to have been part of the apathy which allowed this intolerance and unfairness to thrive for so long.