We have come a long way from the Roman conquest of Britain in AD. 43 when gay sex was decriminalised; last year it was the 50th anniversary of gay discrimination being removed from the law, although lesbianism was never mentioned in the UK laws. Instead, lesbians were treated in an unsavoury manner along with gays, bisexuals and trans people in society so they had to hide behind closed doors. Luckily attitudes have dramatically changed since, and a recent BBC poll showed that positive attitudes towards LGBTIQA+ increased from 17% when the survey started in 1983, to 64% in 2016.
What are your LGBTQA+ rights in the UK today?
Below are some milestones going towards in achieving gay rights:-
1967 – Sex between two men over 21 is decriminalised
1980 – Decriminalisation in Scotland
1982 – Decriminalisation in Northern Ireland
1994 – The age of consent for two male partners is lowered to 18
2000 – The ban on gay and bisexual people serving in the armed forces is removed; the age of consent is equalised for same- and opposite-sex partners at 16
2002 – Same-sex couple adoption are given equal rights
2004 – Civil partnerships law is passed
2007 – Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned
2010 – Gender reassignment is added as a protected characteristic in equality legislation
2014 – Gay marriage becomes legal in England, Wales and Scotland
Do LGBTIQA+ people achieve equal rights like straight people today going about in their everyday lives? Thanks to the EU Employment Equality Directive in 2000, LGBTIQA+ people are not allowed to be discriminated against in the workplace. The EU also brought greater protection for UK citizens in a same-sex partnership and their family members when they work, live and travel within the European Union.
Today, LGBTIQA+ citizens have most of the same legal rights as non-LGBTIQA+ citizens, and the UK provides one of the highest degrees of freedom and equality in the world for its LGBTIQA+ communities. Additionally, the UK currently holds the world record for having the most LGBTIQA+ people in parliament with 45 LGBTIQA+ MPs elected at the 2017 election. The only restriction is in Northern Ireland where LGBTIQA+ people are not allowed to marry, although in other areas like in the miltary and adoption laws there are equal rights.
What are the issues facing LGBTIQA+ people today?
There may be laws that ensure we have equal rights in the UK but attitudes outside the law are still slow to catch up in some areas. In 2017, gay men are six times more likely to commit suicide – the biggest killer of British men under the age of 45 – than heterosexual people; half of LGBTIQA+ students are reportedly bullied at school; gay men earn 10-32% less than straight men; and homophobic attacks rose by 147% in the three months following the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
In 2015, the NHS made the decision to stop assisting those looking to be ‘cured’ of homosexuality through gay conversion therapy and in March 2018, the Church of England condemned the practice as having “no place in the modern world”. Despite this, the government continues to ignore pleas to criminalise conversion therapy.
We can be proud as LGBTIQA+ citzens that many laws were created over the last 50 years to ensure that we have equal rights in everyday lives, although the fight is not over as same-sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland, there are higher risk of mental health problems for LGBTIQA+ people due to lack of support and positive attitudes around us. And there is still a need to remove the harmful gay conversion therapy and the NHS to provide fertility treatment funding to LGBTIQA+ people hoping to be parents.