LGBTQ Legal Rights: What You Need to Know
LGBTQ lawyers and activists have campaigned tirelessly over the past fifty years and have ultimately been integral in forcing successive UK governments to introduce a series of laws that have guaranteed legal rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.
Last July marked the official 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act. This piece of legislation was not as comprehensive as it could have been, as it only partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.
Nevertheless, the landmark act marked the beginning of a series of legal measures that improved LGBTQ legal rights within the UK.
LGBTQ Legal Rights: Timeline
- 1967: Sex between two men over 21 and “in private” is decriminalised in England and Wales
- 1980: Sex between two men over 21 and “in private” is decriminalised in Scotland
- 1982: Homosexual Offences Order decriminalises sex between two men over 21 “in private” in Northern Ireland
- 1994: The age of consent for two male partners is lowered to 18
- 2000: The European Court of Human Rights overturns the UK’s ban on gay men and women serving in the armed forces. The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalises the age of consent at 16.
- 2002: Same-sex couples are given equal rights when it comes to adoption
- 2003: The new Local Government Act repeals the notorious Section 28, which had come into force in 1988 and prohibited the ‘intentional promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities. In addition, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 make it illegal for employers to discriminate against gays, lesbians or bisexuals in the workplace.
- 2004: The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows transgender people to change their legal gender. Same-sex relationships gain legal recognition via the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
- 2005: The first civil partnership ceremony takes place on 5th December 2005. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 comes into force, allowing same-sex couples to adopt.
- 2006: The Equality Act 2006 makes discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal.
- 2007: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned
- 2008: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 means same-sex couples are now recognised as legal parents in cases where a child is conceived via donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
- 2010: Being transgender (referred to as ‘having undergone gender reassignment’) is added as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, though intersex people are not specifically protected.
- 2013: The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act is passed in July 2013. The first same-sex marriages take place in March 2014.
LGBTQ Legal Rights: What Next?
In July 2017, the UK government announced that they would conduct a review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This review aims to make the process much more straightforward and less reliant on medical examinations. Such a process would allow people to self-declare their gender (already in place in countries such as Pakistan).
The current process forces trans people to undergo a series of intrusive medical assessments and interviews with psychiatrists in order to ‘prove’ their gender identity.
In order for trans people to have their gender formally recognised in the form of a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), they have to follow a lengthy and costly procedure. To undertake this, they are required to:
- Have a formal psychiatric diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’
- Live in their ‘acquired gender’ for two years
- Provide supporting evidence to a gender recognition panel
- Pay the £140 fee (not including extra fees for evidence from doctors)
- Give proof of intention to continue living in their ‘acquired gender’ forever
This panel ultimately have the power to approve or deny their application. As well as this, the current process gives spouses of transgender individuals the power to veto the GRC (or otherwise delay its issue) – known as the ‘spousal veto’. This also means spouses can end a marriage or partnership over the legal gender change.
Stonewall, an LGBTQ charity, supports a reformed Gender Recognition Act that requires no medical diagnosis or presentation of evidence for trans people to get their identity legally recognised.
They argue that it is important that the updated legislation recognises non-binary and intersex identities and gives trans people the right to self-determination through a simple administrative process.
This review is due to take place imminently and it is hoped that it will result in transgender and gender-nonconforming people getting the legal recognition that they deserve.
Published: 27/02/18 Author: Hannah Capstick
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