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LGBTQ Legal Rights: What You Need to Know

LGBTQ Legal Rights

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.

July 2017 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

The LGBTQ community still continues to fight for greater equality and social acceptance.

LGBTQ Legal Rights: The Situation Now

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. This 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:

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.

The UK Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act closed on 22nd October 2018, following a testimonial gathering period of 16 weeks. Stonewall reported that tens of thousands of people took the opportunity to improve trans rights by having their say on how the GRA should be reformed.

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.

LGBTQ Legal Rights: What’s Next?

A lot has changed in regards to the legal rights of LGBTQ individuals over the last few decades. In 2017, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell spoke to the BBC, saying: “We have made fantastic progress. Compared to two decades ago, Britain is almost a different country. All the main anti-gay laws have been abolished. We are now one of the best countries in the world for gay equality.

“Public attitudes are much more supportive, although there are still families who reject their gay children. We still have too much homophobic hate crime, many kids are still bullied and a lot of schools don’t have an anti-bullying programme that specifically addresses anti-gay issues. There is big progress, but much more needs to be done.”

LGBTQ legal rights are heading in the right direction but Tatchell says: “We want to get to a situation where no one cares what sexuality you are; where we accept the person and their right to love whoever they wish – male, female, both or neither.”

Published: 27/02/18   Author: Hannah Capstick

Updated: 05/06/19

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