A support group was set up for lesbian and gay firefighters who faced discrimination and struggled to find acceptance within the fire service.
Part of the problem was ignorance about the LGBT community. The 1980s had seen the AIDS scare, with widespread ignorance of its causes and a belief, fostered by the mainstream press, that gay people put work colleagues at risk.
The union published a Fairness At Work policy, which mentioned LGBT firefighters and the union’s newly established Lesbian and Gay Support Group. As a result LGBT firefighters had representation on various forums and committees set up to address fairness at work, thus enabling them to have a voice within the union.
FBU London region’s Terry Richardson, an openly gay firefighter who served as the secretary for the Support Group, stated that the discrimination faced by LGBT members urgently needed to be addressed. He said:
“Until society accepts us as equals and discrimination is eliminated there will still be a definite need for the Group.”
Later in the year members of the FBU Gay and Lesbian Support Group joined other colleagues at the Gay Pride demonstrations in London. Members from brigades across the country attended and marched under an FBU banner. Reporting on the day’s events in The Firefighter, James McKeating, also involved in the Support Group, said:
“Proud of our sexuality, proud of our profession and proud of our progress that we are finally being recognised as gays and lesbians in our workplace. The roadside was packed with gays waving, cheering and touchingly applauding the Fire Service group. A moment that will stick in our minds forever.”