The 1990s

After playing a prominent role in the London chapter of the AIDS activist group ACT UP, in 1990 he and 30 other people jointly founded the radical queer human rights direct action movement OutRage!.

Most notoriously, in 1994 Peter Tatchell and OutRage! outed 10 Church of England Bishops and called on them to “tell the truth” about their sexuality – accusing them of hypocrisy and homophobia for publicly colluding with anti-gay policies, despite their own homosexuality.  This led to him being denounced in parliament and the press as a “homosexual terrorist” and “public enemy number one”.

In the same year, he and five other members of OutRage! picketed an Islamist mass rally at Wembley Arena, organised by the fundamentalist group, Hizb-ut Tahrir. They were protesting against the group’s unlawful public exhortations to kill gay people, unchaste women and Muslims who turn away from their faith. Despite the Islamists openly threatening to murder him, the police arrested Tatchell. He was convicted but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Also in 1994, Peter authored Safer Sexy, the world’s first comprehensive guide to gay sex safely. This book included explicit images of safe gay sex, which drove a coach and horses through Britain’s strict sexual censorship laws – paving the way for a wider liberalisation of sexual imagery law and enforcement.

Two years later, in 1996, together with OutRage!, he launched his “Consent at 14” campaign, which urged a reduction in the age of consent to 14 for both gay and straight sex; arguing that consent at 16 was unrealistic and unfair because it criminalised the many young people who have sexual contact and experience before the age of 16. He suggested that the best way to protect young people is earlier, more frank sex and relationship education, to empower them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make wise, responsible choices and to report unwanted sexual advances and abusers.

From 1994-2000, Peter helped expose the by then deceased Nazi war criminal, SS Dr Carl Vaernet, who experimented on gay prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp; revealing how he escaped justice at the end of the Second World War with apparent Allied connivance.

Peter and his OutRage! comrades briefly and peacefully interrupted the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 1998 Easter Sermon in Canterbury Cathedral; condemning Dr Carey’s advocacy of legal discrimination against LGBT people. He was arrested and convicted under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 (formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551).

This is Peter’s only conviction in over 50 years of nearly 3,000 direct action and civil disobedience protests.

The following year, 1999, in central London, he and three OutRage! colleagues ambushed the motorcade of the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and made a citizen’s arrest of the President on charges of torture and other human rights abuses. When he summonsed the police, they were arrested, while Mugabe was given a police escort to go Christmas shopping at Harrods. All charges against Peter and his colleagues were later dropped.