When religious groups of various sorts used to knock at our door when I was a child they would inevitably try to engage by beginning with some comment on how dark the times were becoming. My father used to completely disarm them by saying that as far as he was concerned, as someone who had lived through and fought in the Second World War, things seemed to be much better and getting more so.
I am a veteran of some very dark days for LGBTQI people in this country. I can now hardly believe how much better things are.
When I was born, male homosexual activity was still illegal. I have lived through years of appalling discrimination against LGBTQI people. Things started to get better in the 1970s and then got worse when AIDS struck in the 1980s. It was not really until the turn of the century that a tidal shift in attitude occurred in the UK.
In 2000 the ban on gay people serving in the armed forces was lifted and that was followed by a string of legislative changes including an equal age of consent, adoption rights, the abolition of the appalling Section 28, civil partnership, the Equality Act and same-sex marriage.
There are still battles to be won and the Orlando shootings remind us of that fact but the war is won.
Things have got better.
Even in the Churches, where as a theologian my work has focussed, things have got better, though some of them still have some way to go. This year the United Reformed Church approved gay marriage services, the Methodists are thinking about it. Pope Francis has set a more inclusive tone though Roman Catholic teaching on homosexuality remains as it has been since the 1980s and the Church of England remains deeply divided on the issue but determined to keep talking.
In 1992 I published a book of prayers for lesbian and gay people, Daring to Speak Love’s Name. The controversy that it stirred was extraordinary. I think that if it was published today it would barely raise an eyebrow.
Things can get better.
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About the author
Professor Elizabeth Stuart is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Winchester.