Gay Rights In The UK: What Can Still Be Done?


Photo by Miko Guziuk on Unsplash

CW: This article discusses topics of harassment and hate crime which could be distressing to some readers.


Same-sex marriage


It was not until 2013, that same-sex couples were legally allowed to marry. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 had allowed same sex-couples to legally enter into binding partnerships, however, the Marriage Act 2013 went further. Prior to such acts, society was unjust towards any form of homosexual relations.

"Children are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start to life." - Margaret Thatcher, 1987

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, banning local authorities and councils from funding educational materials perceived to 'promote homosexuality'. Although later repealed, the legislation meant that pupils weren't provided with the support they needed and any LGBTQ+ discussion came to a halt.


Although somewhat fair in law, inequality for homosexuals continues within the public opinion. A study done between 2017 and 2020 found that 14.5 %of the public do not believe that homosexuality is justifiable and 19% disagreed that same-sex couples should have the right to adopt.


Conversion therapy, the act of attempting to change a persons sexual orientation or gender identity, is not yet banned in the UK. Around 5% of the respondents of the 2018 LGBT government survey had said they had been offered a kind of conversion therapy. The figure was high among trans respondents, one in ten trans men had said they had been offered the therapy.


Gender


Another milestone was the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows people to acquire a new birth certificate, therefore giving trans people the opportunity to get recognition of their gender. The Equality Act 2010 then went onto provide LGBT employees protection from discrimination, harassment and victimisation within the workplace.


Although a huge step for trans equality, again the acts did not change public opinion. YouGov found that the British public are split on whether they recognise the new gender of transgender people, 36% disagreeing. These studies suggest that, overall, britons support freedom for people choosing their own gender, but some do not agree with the new identity.


A fault within the Gender Recognition Act is the lack of recognition for non-binary people. When acquiring a new birth certificate, the gender options are limited to just 'male' and 'female'. Parts of the LGBTQ+ community are yet to be represented within the law, and there is clearly still a lack of acceptance.


What needs to be done?


A study done in 2020 found a disproportionate rise in harassment and discrimination, up from 55% to 62% in the previous five years. Respondents said they believed this change is due to negative public discourse by politicians as well as a lack of enforcement of existing laws and policies. It is clear that something needs to be done.

"These statistics are a heartbreaking reminder that progress isn't permanent and doesn't always move forward." - Josh Bradlow, head of policy at LGBTQ charity Stonewall.

Stonewall is a charity supporting those within the LGBTQ+ community. This month they are focusing on workplace inclusion, encouraging individuals to come out at work, as more than one third of LGBT staff hide who they are at work.


The charity also has recommendations for individuals who want to help in tackling anti-LGBT hate crime and discrimination. They advice to call out any anti-LGBT abuse, report incidents of discrimination and if possible, to join their 'Come Out for LGBT' campaign which provides ways to take action to end discrimination.


In terms of policies promoting equality, it is undeniable that there is not only a lack of enforcement, but also an absence in improvement. The policies that exist exclude non-binary identity, do not prevent discrimination and allow LGBTQ harassment. You can do your part to support the community by following advice of charities such as Stonewall, but the real difference needs to be made within government policies.