Much of LGBT history is littered with discrimination and moments we would rather forget. Since it is LGBT History Month, I wanted to focus on the positive things that changes in the law have brought. This is not a full review of all the legislative changes, but rather I have highlighted some of the most important ones.
Scarily, during our parents’ lifetime, homosexuality was still a crime. Within the UK, England and Wales were the first countries to decriminalise male homosexuality in 1967 (at the time it was thought women did not have “real” sex with one another). Scotland followed in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982, yet it took until 2003 for the age of consent within England and Wales to be the same for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Since our teenage years the changes in UK legislation have been incredible; politicians had begun to realise that our community cannot be ignored and that the level of inequality really was unacceptable. For example, in response to a European Court of Justice ruling, the UK passed the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and this for the first time in the UK allowed transgender people to change their legal sex.
The landmark Civil Partnership Act in 2004 created a legal union parallel to marriage, giving same-sex couples similar legal rights, including the eligibility to apply to adopt children. This was a huge step forward yet still we were not equal – who wants to propose to someone asking, “will you civil partnership me?” On 5th February 2013 the government, at the second reading of the marriage (same-sex couples) bill, voted in favour with a majority of 225. There are still some issues regarding those with non-binary gender identities, and those who are transitioning, but failing any unexpected glitches, the bill should become law within the next couple of years.
With most of us just beginning our adult lives with so much legal equality in the UK, it would be easy to become complacent about LGBT equality and forget that the fight still continues around the world. I urge all of you to sign petitions, go to marches, and do anything to increase awareness of the on-going fight. International pressure does work!
There has never been a better time to be a part of the LGBT+ community, let’s hope our future is just as positive as our recent history has been.