Practising Catholic Ruth Hunt heads gay rights group Stonewall

Announcing her priorities, Hunt said she wanted to build on the legal victories secured under Summerskill – including same-sex marriage

A practising Catholic has been appointed as the new chief executive of Britain’s largest gay rights organisation Stonewall – and pledged to do more to win over “hearts and minds”.

Ruth Hunt, who has led the lobby group for six months as acting chief executive, was yesterday confirmed as the permanent replacement for Ben Summerskill, who resigned in January.

Announcing her priorities, Ms Hunt said she wanted to build on the legal and victories secured under Mr Summerskill – including same-sex marriage – by helping change social attitudes.

“There has been a natural priority on powerful institutions, but now we have achieved full legal equality,” she said. “We now need to ensure society reflects the changes in our law. That means going right into our communities and seeing what matters in the lives of gay people across the country.”

Ms Hunt has also pledged to build global bridges with transgender and intersex organisations, whose issues are not formally part of Stonewall’s campaigning.

Ms Hunt, 34, grew up in Wales and Birmingham. She studied at Oxford University, where she was president of the Students’ Union. She joined Stonewall in 2005 as a senior policy officer before becoming deputy chief executive last year.

In the role she has been heavily involved in Stonewall campaigns to secure equal marriage, give lesbians access to fertility treatment and end homophobic bullying in schools.

Last year Ms Hunt criticised the Catholic Church for banning a London church from performing gay masses.

She called the ban a “real shame” for the safety of gay Catholics, but has frequently advocated better relationships with faith leaders.