LGBT History Month – How has the law changed?

Thursfields Solicitors’ are a proud member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme and continue to work with the charity to encourage a positive working culture for LGBT employees and to promote the ethos of ‘acceptance without exception.’

Throughout February Stonewall will be celebrating LGBT History Month. The theme of this year’s month long event is Citizenship and Law, marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

Thursfields’ are proud to support and be part of LGBT History Month. As experts in the law, the firm have taken the opportunity during LGBT History Month to reflect upon how the law has changed to help support LGBT equality since the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in 1967.

Changes in the Law

1967    The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised sex between two men over 21 and ‘in private’. It did not extend to the Merchant Navy, Armed Forces, or Scotland and Northern Ireland.

1980    Sex between two men over the age of 21 ‘in private’ was decriminalised in Scotland.

1981    A landmark court case found that Northern Ireland was violating the European Convention on Human Rights by criminalising same-sex acts

1994    The UK House of Commons looked to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16. The vote was defeated and the age of consent was instead lowered to 18. An age of consent for same-sex relations between women was not set.

1996    P vs S and Cornwall County Council –The Court found that an employee who was about to undergo gender reassignment had been wrongfully dismissed. It was the first piece of case law, anywhere in the world, which prevented discrimination in employment because someone is transgender.

1999    The European Court of Human Rights held that the discharge of two personnel from the Royal Navy on the basis of their sexual orientation was a breach of their right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

2000    The UK Government lifted the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces.

2000    Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000- Stonewall’s campaign to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men aged 16 is successful. Group sex between men is also decriminalised.

2002    Goodwin v the United Kingdom- the Judges in this matter ruled that the UK Government should accommodate the needs of transgender people by issuing new birth certificates and permitting marriage to someone of the opposite gender.

2003    The ban on local authorities from ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality’ was repealed.

2003    Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations became law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay and bi people in the workplace.

2004    The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed giving transgender people full legal recognition in their appropriate gender. The Act allows transgender people to acquire a new birth certificate, although gender options are still limited to ‘male’ or ‘female’.

2004    The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was passed. This gave same-sex couples the right to enter into Civil Partnerships in the UK and gave those couples the same rights and responsibilities as married straight couples.

2005    The Adoption and Children Act 2002 came into force allowing unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption.

2008    The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 recognised same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

2010    A new offence of ‘incitement to homophobic hatred’ came into force in the UK.

2012    Protection of Freedoms Act was passed in the UK allowing for historic convictions for consensual sex between men to be removed from criminal records.

2014    The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 officially comes into force, with the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales taking place on 29 March 2014.

The above timeline and changes in the law show positive progression for LGBT people over the last 50 years. Nevertheless, Stonewall are committed to continue to campaign and lobby the government to change laws that do not promote and ensure equality for LGBT people. In particular they are focused upon ensuring that transgender people have the right legal framework to support and enable them to be themselves.

Thursfields Solicitors will continue to support the work of Stonewall and champion equality within the workplace and the wider community.

Please visit Stonewall’s website to find out more about their mission

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