Gay rights activist and charity founder receive MBEs in New Year Honours

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The gay rights activist whose legal challenge led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland and the founder of the Allsorts LGBT youth project will both receive MBEs in the New Year Honours.

Jeff Dudgeon was honoured for services to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in Northern Ireland, and Jess Wood for services to young people in the community.

Dudgeon is best known for his role in the case of Dudgeon vs United Kingdom, where he challenged the criminalisation of gay acts between men in the country at the European Court of Human Rights.

When it concluded in 1982, the case forced Northern Ireland to bring its laws into line with Scotland, which decriminalised in 1980, and England and Wales, which decriminalised in 1967.

It also set a precedent for the subsequent ECHR challenge regarding the laws in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland and the Council of Europe’s declaration that no European state should criminalise consensual homosexual acts between men or women.

Dudgeon describes himself as having been present “at all too many of the key events in recent Irish history and politics”

In a speech to the International Lesbian and Gay Association in October, Dudgeon described being arrested alongside 25 others in 1976 as he claimed police tried to disband the first campaigning LGBT organisations in Northern Ireland, Cara-Friend and NIGRA.

Over the following years, he mounted a successful case in Strasbourg under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the provision of a citizen’s right to private life, which led Northern Ireland to repeal the law on gay acts in October 1982.

Jess Wood will receive an MBE for her work with young people, founding the Allsorts youth project in Brighton in 1999.

The organisation received a £200,000 grant from the Diana Memorial Fund in 2000 to help isolated and vulnerable young LGBT people and now runs drop-in support groups and school workshops.

Ms Wood said: “I feel very honoured to receive such an award especially when I think of all the wonderful volunteers and workers in the community and voluntary sector in Brighton and Hove whose incredible achievements also deserve recognition.

“I know I am only one of many people out there fighting for a better and more just society. What pleases me most is that an MBE for any LGBT individual tells us that the state recognises that the LGBT communities matter and need specific services which the state values and honours.”