LGBT rights in the United Kingdom
|Status||Always legal for women; decriminalised for men in:|
1967 (England and Wales)
1982 (Northern Ireland)
Age of consent equalised in 2001
|Gender identity||Ability to apply to change legal gender since 2005|
|Military||Allowed to serve openly since 2000|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation and gender identity protections since 2010|
|Recognition of relationships||Same-sex marriage since 2014 (England and Wales; Scotland)|
Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland since 2020
Civil partnerships since 2005 (nationwide)
|Adoption||Joint and stepchild adoption since|
2005 (England and Wales)
2013 (Northern Ireland)
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in the United Kingdom
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have evolved dramatically over time.
Prior to the formal introduction of Christianity in Britain in 597 AD, when Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Britain) the citizens had been able to practice homosexuality since the beginning of the Iron Age (600BC) through the Celtic, Roman and Anglo Saxon periods.   Post 597 AD, Christianity and homosexuality began to clash. Same-sex male sexual activity was characterised as "sinful" but not illegal. Under the Buggery Act 1533 male anal sex was outlawed and made punishable by death. LGBT rights first came to prominence following the decriminalisation of sexual activity between men, in 1967 in England and Wales, and later in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Sexual activity between women was never subject to the same legal restriction.
Since the turn of the 21st century, LGBT rights have increasingly strengthened in support. Some discrimination protections had existed for LGBT people since 1999, but were extended to all areas under the Equality Act 2010. A ban on LGBT individuals serving openly in the armed forces was officially lifted in 2016, though a policy of non-enforcement had been in place since 2000. The age of consent was equalised at 16,[a] regardless of sexual orientation, in 2001. Having been introduced in the 1980s, Section 28, which prohibited the "promotion of homosexuality" by schools and local authorities, was repealed in 2003. Transgender people have had the ability to apply to change their legal gender since 2005. The same year, same-sex couples were granted the right to enter into a civil partnership, a similar legal structure to marriage, and also to adopt in England and Wales. Scotland later followed on adoption rights for same-sex couples in 2009, and Northern Ireland in 2013. Same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales, and Scotland in 2014, and in Northern Ireland in 2020.
Today, LGBT citizens have most of the same legal rights as non-LGBT citizens and the UK provides one of the highest degrees of liberty in the world for its LGBT communities, although the UK has recently fallen behind other counties in international rankings. In ILGA-Europe's 2015 review of LGBTI rights, the UK received the highest score in Europe, with 86% progress toward "respect of human rights and full equality" for LGBT people and 92% in Scotland alone. However by 2020 the UK had dropped to ninth place in the ILGA-Europe rankings with a score of 66% and the executive also expressed concern about a "hostile climate on trans rights fuelled by opposition groups". Meanwhile, 86% of the UK agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll, and a 2017 poll showed that 77% of British people support same-sex marriage.
Around 2% of people identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual in a 2017 UK national survey, although YouGov and Stonewall argue this is likely influenced by under-reporting, and estimate that the actual figure is between 5 and 7%. The number of transgender people in the UK is estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000 (roughly 0.5%) as of 2009. LGBT rights organisations and very large LGBT communities have been built across the UK, most notably in Brighton, which is widely regarded as the UK's unofficial "gay capital", with other large communities in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Southampton which all have gay villages and host annual pride festivals.
Same-sex sexual activity
Homosexuality as an offence
English law identified anal sex as an offence punishable by hanging as a result of the Buggery Act 1533, which was pioneered by Henry VIII. The Act was the country's first civil sodomy law, such offences having previously been dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts. While it was repealed in 1553 on the accession of Mary I, it was re-enacted in 1563 under Elizabeth I. James Pratt and John Smith were the last two to be executed for sodomy in 1835.
Although section 61 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 removed the death penalty for homosexuality, male homosexual acts remained illegal and were punishable by imprisonment. The Labouchere Amendment, section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, extended the laws regarding homosexuality to include any kind of sexual activity between males. Oscar Wilde was convicted under this law and sentenced to 2 years of penal labour. Conversely, lesbians were never acknowledged or targeted by legislation.
In the early 1950s, the police actively enforced laws prohibiting sexual behaviour between men. By the end of 1954, there were 1,069 gay men in prison in England and Wales, with an average age of 37. There were a number of high-profile arrests and trials, including that of scientist, mathematician, and war-time code-breaker Alan Turing, convicted in 1952 of "gross indecency". He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. Turing committed suicide in 1954. In 2009, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in response to a petition, issued an apology on behalf of the British Government for "the appalling way he was treated". In 1954, the trial and eventual imprisonment of Edward Montagu (the 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu), Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood for committing acts of "homosexual indecency" caused uproar and led to the establishment of a committee to examine and report on the law covering "homosexual offences" appointed by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe and Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth.
The Wolfenden Committee was set up on 24 August 1954 to consider UK law relating to "homosexual offences"; the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden report) was published on 3 September 1957. It recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence", finding that "homosexuality cannot legitimately be regarded as a disease, because in many cases it is the only symptom and is compatible with full mental health in other respects."
In October 1957, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, spoke in support of the Wolfenden Report, saying that "There is a sacred realm of privacy... into which the law, generally speaking, must not intrude. This is a principle of the utmost importance for the preservation of human freedom, self-respect, and responsibility." The first parliamentary debate on the Wolfenden Report was initiated on 4 December 1957 by Lord Pakenham. Of the seventeen peers who spoke in the debate, eight broadly supported the recommendations in the Wolfenden Report. Maxwell Fyfe, by then ennobled as Lord Kilmuir and serving as Lord Chancellor, speaking for the Government, doubted that there would be much public support for implementing the recommendations and stated that further research was required. The Homosexual Law Reform Society was founded on 12 May 1958, mainly to campaign for the implementation of the Wolfenden Committee's recommendations.
Decriminalisation of homosexual acts
In 1965, Conservative peer Lord Arran proposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts (lesbian acts had never been illegal) in the House of Lords. This was followed by Humphry Berkeley in the House of Commons a year later, though Berkeley ascribed his defeat in the 1966 general election to the unpopularity of this action. However, in the newly elected Parliament, Labour MP Leo Abse took up the issue and the Sexual Offences Bill was put before Parliament in order to implement some of the Wolfenden Committee's recommendations after almost ten years of campaigning.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 (Welsh: Deddf Troseddau Rhywiol 1967; Scottish Gaelic: Achd Eucoirean Feise 1967) was accordingly passed and received royal assent on 27 July 1967 after an intense late-night debate in the House of Commons. It maintained general prohibitions on buggery and indecency between men, but provided for a limited decriminalisation of homosexual acts where three conditions were fulfilled: 1) the act had to be consensual, 2) the act had to take place in private and 3) the act could involve only people that had attained the age of 21. This was a higher age of consent than that for heterosexual acts, which was set at 16. Further, "in private" limited participation in an act to two people. This condition was interpreted strictly by the courts, which took it to exclude acts taking place in a room in a hotel, for example, and in private homes where a third person was present (even if that person was in a different room). These restrictions were overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in 2000.
The 1967 Act extended only to England and Wales. Organisations therefore continued to campaign for the goal of full equality in Scotland and Northern Ireland where all homosexual behaviour remained illegal. Same-sex sexual activities were legalised in Scotland on the same basis as in the 1967 Act, by section 80 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which came into force on 1 February 1981. An analogous amendment was also made to the law of Northern Ireland, following the determination of a case by the European Court of Human Rights (see Dudgeon v. United Kingdom); the relevant legislation was an Order in Council, the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982, which came into force on 8 December 1982.
Equal age of consent
In 1979, the Home Office Policy Advisory Committee's Working Party report, "Age of Consent in Relation to Sexual Offences", recommended that the age of consent for same-sex sexual activities be reduced from 21 to 18, but no such legislation was enacted as a result.
In February 1994, Parliament considered reform of the law on rape and other sexual offences during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. Conservative MP Edwina Currie proposed an amendment to equalise the age of consent of same-sex sexual activities to 16. Currie's amendment was defeated by 307 votes to 280. Those who supported it included Tony Blair, John Smith, Neil Kinnock, Paddy Ashdown and William Hague. Those against included Labour MPs David Blunkett and Ann Taylor. There were angry scenes outside the Palace of Westminster at the defeat of the amendment, when those involved in a demonstration organised by the group OutRage! clashed with police. Another amendment proposed by Sir Anthony Durant suggested lowering the age of consent to 18, which passed by 427 votes to 162, and Tory supporters included Michael Howard and John Major. It was opposed by such MPs as John Redwood, Michael Heseltine and John Gummer. An amendment proposed by Simon Hughes which was intended to equalise the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals to 17 was not voted upon. The bill as a whole was given a second reading in the Lords by 290 votes to 247. Lord Longford then sought to reintroduce 21 as the minimum age in the Lords, but this was defeated by 176 votes to 113. An amendment by the Deputy Labour Leader in the House of Lords, Lord MacIntosh of Haringey, that would have equalised the age of consent to 16, was rejected by 245 votes to 71.
In its decision of 1 July 1997, in the case of Sutherland v. United Kingdom, the European Commission of Human Rights found that Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated by a discriminatory age of consent, on the ground that there was no objective and reasonable justification for maintaining a higher minimum age for male homosexual acts. On 13 October 1997, the Government submitted to the European Court of Human Rights that it would propose a bill to Parliament for a reduction of the age of consent for homosexual acts from 18 to 16. On 22 June 1998, the Crime and Disorder Bill was put before Parliament. Ann Keen proposed amendments to lower the age of consent to 16. The House of Commons accepted these provisions with a majority of 207, but they were rejected by the House of Lords with a majority of 168. Subsequently, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill was introduced on 16 December 1998 and, again, the equalisation of the age of consent was endorsed on 25 January 1999 by the House of Commons, but was rejected on 14 April 1999 by the House of Lords. Those campaigning against the amendment claimed they were simply acting to protect children. Baroness Young, the leader of the campaign against the amendment, said, "Homosexual practices carry great health risks to young people."
The Government reintroduced the bill in 1999. With the prospect of it being passed by the Commons in two successive sessions of Parliament, the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 were available to enact the bill should the Lords have rejected it a third time. The Lords passed the bill at second reading, but made an amendment during committee stage to maintain the age of consent for buggery at 18 for both sexes. However, as the bill had not completed its passage through the Lords at the end of the parliamentary session on 30 November 2000, then Speaker of the House of Commons Michael Martin certified that the procedure specified by the Parliament Acts had been complied with. The bill received royal assent a few hours later, and was enacted as the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000. The provisions of the Act came into force throughout the UK on 8 January 2001, lowering the age of consent to 16. This Act also introduced, for the first time, an age of consent for lesbian sexual acts, as previously there had been no legislation concerning this.
On 1 May 2004, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 entered into force, which swept away all of the previous sex-specific legislation, including the 1967 Act, and introduced instead neutral offences. Thus, the previous conditions relating to privacy were removed, and sexual acts were viewed by the law without regard to the sex of the participants.
With the passage of the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008, Northern Ireland, which had an age of consent of 17 regardless of one's sexual orientation, lowered the age to 16 in 2009 so it would match that of England, Wales, and Scotland.
Annulment of convictions
On 31 January 2017, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 went into effect after being given royal assent. A section of the Act known as the Alan Turing law officially gave posthumous pardons to the thousands of homosexual men from England and Wales who had been convicted under those regions' old sodomy laws, and gave those still living the possibility to apply to have their conviction erased. Disregards have been available since 2012, removing the conviction from the person's criminal records. Scotland passed a more comprehensive law in June 2018, with pardons being automatic for those still living. The Northern Ireland Assembly passed a similar law in 2016, with it taking effect on 28 June 2018. Applications for pardons must be made with the Northern Irish Department of Justice.
In June 2019, it was revealed that only two men had sought pardons for historic gay sex offences in Northern Ireland and that they both failed to have their convictions overturned. Across the UK, over half of those who applied for a pardon did not have their convictions overturned.
Merchant shipping repeal
In April 2017, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Act 2017. This private member's bill was drafted by Conservative MP John Glen. It repealed sections 146(4) and 147(3) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was labelled as the UK's "last anti-gay law". It went into effect immediately after royal assent.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
There was no legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Britain until 2005, following the legalisation of civil partnerships under the passage of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Welsh: Deddf Partneriaeth Sifil 2004; Scottish Gaelic: Achd Com-pàirteachasan Sìobhalta 2004) on 18 November 2004. Civil partnerships are a separate union which give most (but not all) of the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage, but there are recognition issues in other countries and with the use of courtesy titles. Civil partnerships can take place on any approved premise in the UK and in approved religious venues in England and Wales since 2011 (though religious venues are not compelled), but cannot include religious readings, music or symbols. The Civil Partnership Act came into effect on 5 December 2005.
The first civil partnership ceremony took place at 11:00 (GMT) on 5 December 2005 between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp at St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing, West Sussex. The usual 14-day waiting period was waived as Roche was suffering from a terminal illness. He died the next day. The first civil partnership ceremonies after the statutory waiting period then took place in Northern Ireland on 19 December, with ceremonies following the next day in Scotland and the day after that in England and Wales.
Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom has been the subject of wide debate since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain. Previous legislation in England and Wales had prevented same-sex marriage, including the Marriage Act 1949 which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, the Nullity of Marriage Act 1971 which explicitly banned same-sex marriages, and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which reiterated the provisions of the Nullity of Marriage Act.
While civil partnerships were established nationwide, marriage law is a devolved matter in the United Kingdom and therefore the legislative procedure of same-sex marriage differs by jurisdiction. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which allows same-sex marriage in England and Wales, was passed by the UK Parliament in July 2013 and came into force on 13 March 2014, with the first same-sex marriages taking place on 29 March 2014. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, allowing same-sex marriage in Scotland, was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014 and came into effect on 16 December 2014.
Same-sex marriages in the UK give all the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage and can be performed on approved premises. This also includes religious venues, providing the religious or belief body has opted-in. However, no religious or belief body is compelled to perform same-sex marriages; the Church of England and the Church in Wales are explicitly banned from doing so. For the purposes of the divorce of a same-sex marriage, the common law definition of adultery remains as sexual intercourse between a man and a woman only, although infidelity with a person of the same sex can be grounds for a divorce as "unreasonable behaviour." Non-consummation is also excluded as a ground for the annulment of a same-sex marriage.
Between 2012 and 2015, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted five times on same-sex marriage, and although it was passed by a slim majority on the fifth attempt, it was vetoed by the Democratic Unionist Party using the petition of concern. Following the inconclusive 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election and failure to form a Northern Ireland Executive by the deadline of 21 October 2019, provisions in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which was passed by the UK Parliament on 18 July 2019 and received royal assent on 24 July, mandated the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to pass regulations legalising same-sex marriage by 13 January 2020. The Secretary of State, Julian Smith signed the regulations on 19 December 2019. Same-sex marriage therefore became legal in Northern Ireland on 13 January 2020, with couples free to register their intent to marry and couples who had previously married elsewhere having their unions recognised from that date. The first same-sex marriage ceremony took place in Carrickfergus on 11 February 2020.
Religious same-sex marriages
On 30 June 2021, the Methodist Church voted 254 to 46 in favour of changing the definition of marriage to allow same-sex marriage, thus becoming the largest religious denomination in Britain to permit same-sex marriages.
In September 2021, the Church in Wales voted to "formally bless same-sex couples" instead (by way of debate and compromise) - but still not legally recognising same-sex marriage within titles of the Church officially.
Adoption and family planning
Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 Parliament provided that an application to adopt a child in England and Wales could be made by either a single person or a couple. The previous condition that the couple be married was dropped, thus allowing a same-sex couple to apply. The Lords rejected the proposal on one occasion before it was passed. Supporters of the move in Parliament stressed that adoption was not a "gay rights" issue but one of providing as many children as possible with a stable family environment rather than seeing them kept in care. Opponents raised doubts over the stability of relationships outside marriage, and how instability would impact on the welfare of adopted children. However, the law was successfully passed and went into effect on 30 December 2005. Similar legislation was adopted in Scotland, which came into effect on 28 September 2009. Northern Ireland followed suit in December 2013.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 was given royal assent on 13 November 2008. The legislation allows for lesbians and their partners (both civil and de facto) equal access to legal presumptions of parentage in cases of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or assisted/self insemination (other than at home) from the moment the child is born. The law also allows both partners to be identified on the child's birth certificate by the words "parent".  The law came into force on 6 April 2009 and is not retroactive (it does not apply before that date). On 6 April 2010 Parental orders for gay men and their partners came into force. A Parental Order is an order issued by the Court to the intended parents of a surrogate child which extinguishes the legal parenthood of the surrogate mother and, if she has one, her partner and reassigns legal parenthood and parental responsibility to the intended parents.
Since 31 August 2009, legislation granting lesbians equal birth rights in England and Wales came into effect, meaning both can now be named on a child's birth certificate, amending the Registration of Births and Deaths Regulations 1987. The legislation was criticised by those who believe it was "damaging the traditional notion of a family". Stonewall Head of Policy and Research Ruth Hunt said the new law makes life easier for lesbian families and stated "Now lesbian couples in the UK who make a considered decision to start a loving family will finally be afforded equal access to services they help fund as taxpayers". Home Office Minister Lord Brett was full of praise in his comments:
This positive change means that, for the first time, female couples who have a child using fertility treatment have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts to be shown as parents in the birth registration. It is vital that we afford equality wherever we can in society, especially as family circumstances continue to change. This is an important step forward in that process.
In 2016, 9.6% of all adoptions in England involved same-sex couples, an increase from 8.4% in 2015. In 2018, 450 of the 3,820 adoptions in England (approximately 12%) involved same-sex couples.
In December 2002, the Lord Chancellor's office published a "Government Policy Concerning Transsexual People" document that categorically states that transsexualism "is not a mental illness."
Since 4 April 2005, as per the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (Welsh: Deddf Cydnabod Rhywedd 2004; Scottish Gaelic: Achd Aithneachadh Gnè 2004), it has been possible for transgender people to change their legal gender in the UK, allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes. Transgender people must present evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel, which considers their case and issues a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC); they must have transitioned two years before a GRC is issued. It is not a requirement for sex reassignment surgery to have taken place, although such surgery will be accepted as part of the supporting evidence for a case where it has taken place. There is formal approval of medical gender reassignment available either on the National Health Service (NHS) or privately.
However, there have been concerns regarding marriages and civil partnerships. Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, transgender people who are married have been required to divorce or annul their marriage in order for them to be issued with a GRC. The Government chose to retain this requirement in the Act as effectively it would have legalised a small category of same-sex marriages. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed the creation of civil partnerships between same-sex couples, but a married couple that includes a transgender partner cannot simply re-register their new status. They must first have their marriage dissolved, gain legal recognition of the new gender and then register for a civil partnership. This is like any divorce with the associated paperwork and costs.
With the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, existing marriages will continue where one or both parties change their legal gender and both parties wish to remain married. The legislation also does not restore any of the marriages of transgender people that were forcibly annulled as a precondition for them securing a GRC and states that a GRC will not be issued unless the spouse of the transgender person has consented. If the spouse does not consent, the marriage must be terminated before a GRC may be issued.
Since 1 January 2021, UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom explicitly includes "gender reassignment" (alongside race, disability, religion, sex and sexual orientation) within its hate speech legal policies and procedures.
Transgender youth are equally covered by the Equality Act 2010, and therefore protected from discrimination as with adult trans people. Children who wish to medically transition are referred to the NHS Gender Identity Development Service, the only gender identity clinic for people under eighteen in the UK. There, no surgical options are available for transition, per National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance. In October 2019, the service was subject to a legal case, Bell v Tavistock, and in December 2020 the High Court of Justice ruled that children under 16 cannot independently consent to the use of puberty blockers. This was widely condemned by LGBT rights groups, such as Stonewall, The Consortium and Mermaids, as well as human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Liberty. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health issued a statement hoping for further clarity, and leave to appeal was granted in January 2021. In September 2020, the NHS launched a review of gender identity services for young people, which as of July 2021 is still ongoing.
Intersex people in the United Kingdom face significant gaps, particularly in protection from non-consensual medical interventions, and protection from discrimination. Actions by intersex organisations aim to eliminate unnecessary medical interventions and harmful practices, promote social acceptance, and equality in line with Council of Europe and United Nations demands.
Regulations were introduced for discrimination protections on sexual orientation in employment on 1 December 2003, following the adoption of an EC Directive in 2000, providing for the prohibition of discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 created certain legal protections for transgender people for the first time in British history. The Regulations banned discrimination against individuals undergoing "gender reassignment" in employment and vocational training. Similar legislation, the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999, was passed in Northern Ireland. The Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008 extended these protections to cover discrimination in goods, facilities and services
On 30 April 2007, the Sexual Orientation Regulations came into force, following the introduction of similar provisions in Northern Ireland in January 2007. They provided a general prohibition of discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. Similar legislation had long previously been in force in respect of discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability and marital status. The introduction of the Regulations was controversial and a dispute arose between the Government and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales over exemptions for Catholic adoption agencies.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham declared his opposition to the Act, saying that the legislation contradicted the Catholic Church's moral values. Several Catholic adoption agencies requested exemption from sexual orientation regulations, and the adoption charity Catholic Care obtained a judgement on 17 March 2010 instructing the Charity Commission to reconsider its case. The Charity Commission again found no grounds to make an exception for Catholic Care, a decision upheld on appeal. In August 2011, the Upper Tribunal agreed to hear the charity's fourth appeal in the case. In November 2012, the appeal was dismissed by the Upper Tribunal, with the Tribunal ruling in favour of the Charity Commission. Catholic Care stated its intention to appeal the judgement.
In October 2007, the Government announced that it would seek to introduce an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act to create a new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. This followed the creation of an offence on religious hatred that had proved controversial in 2006 (see Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006). Incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was already illegal in Northern Ireland. Scotland[clarification needed] enacted similar legislation in 2009, which also includes gender identity as a protected ground.
The Equality Act 2010 (Welsh: Deddf Cydraddoldeb 2010; Scottish Gaelic: Achd na Co-ionannachd 2010; Cornish: Reyth Parder 2010) received royal assent on 8 April 2010. The primary purpose of the Act was to codify the complicated and numerous array of Acts and Regulations, which formed the basis of anti-discrimination law in the UK including the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. This legislation has the same goals as the US Civil Rights Act 1964'and four major EU equal treatment directives, whose provisions it mirrors and implements. It requires equal treatment in access to employment as well as private and public services, regardless of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, transgender status, belief and age. The Act amended the Approved Premises (Marriage and Civil Partnership) Regulations 2005 to allow civil partnership ceremonies on religious premises in England and Wales. It also extended transgender rights, banning discrimination by schools on the grounds of gender reassignment.
Other initiatives have included the establishment of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights on 1 October 2007 which is tasked with working for equality in all areas and replaced the previous commissions dedicated to sex, race and disability alone; the setting up of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Advisory Group within the Department of Health; a provision of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that a court must treat hostility based on sexual orientation as an aggravating factor for sentencing a person; guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service on dealing with homophobic crimes; and a commitment from the Government to work for LGBT rights at an international level.
The 1980s saw a setback for LGBT rights. The availability in the libraries of schools run by the Inner London Education Authority of a book considered by some to "promote" homosexuality led to protests and a campaign for new legislation. Consequently, the Local Government Act 1988 included a provision prohibiting "the intentional promotion of homosexuality" by any local authority and "the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." The provision was known as Section 28, and amended section 2A of the earlier Local Government Act 1986. Changes in the structure of local government since that date led to some confusion over the precise circumstances in which the new law applied, including the question of whether or not it applied at all in state schools.
Section 28 (called Section 2A in Scotland) was repealed in Scotland within the first two years of the existence of the Scottish Parliament, by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000. A move to remove the provision in England and Wales was prevented following opposition in the House of Lords, led by Baroness Young. Following her death in 2002, it was repealed by the Labour Government in the Local Government Act 2003, which took effect on 18 November 2003. During the passage of the bill, no attempt was made to retain the section and an amendment seeking to preserve it using ballots was defeated in the House of Lords. In June 2009, David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader, formally apologised for his party introducing the law, stating that it was a mistake and offensive to gay people.
Public Order Act 1986
Section 29AB of the Public Order Act 1986 states:
- In this Part "hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation" means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to sexual orientation (whether towards persons of the same sex, the opposite sex or both)
Section 29JA, titled "Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)", of the Act states the following:
- (1) In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.
- (2) In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, any discussion or criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to marriage shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.
Homophobic chanting at football matches
In July 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced they wished to amend the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to explicitly ban homophobic chanting at football matches. Currently, those accused of homophobic chanting are prosecuted for "indecent" chanting.
An earlier effort was made in 2018 to ban homophobic chanting by Damian Collins, at the time chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and former Wales rugby player Gareth Thomas.
Bias-motivated violence and abuse
Recorded reports of homophobic abuse in the UK increased from 5,807 in 2014–15 to 13,530 in 2018–19. The number of prosecutions fell from 1,157 to 1,058, which the National Police Chiefs' Council attributed to many cases with a lack of witnesses and evidence, including whether the assault was motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity or not. "Many of these non-violent offences present less evidential opportunities and victims often feel that there is a barrier between bringing the matter to court and prefer to make police aware of each offence", said a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service. North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire saw their reports increase from 172 to 961 and 73 to 375, respectively. The West Yorkshire Police said this increase was in part due to "improvements in the way we record crime and the fact that many victims have the confidence to come forward".
LGBT people have been allowed to serve openly in Her Majesty's Armed Forces since 2000, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been forbidden since 2010. It is also forbidden for someone to pressure LGBT people to come out. All personnel are subject to the same rules against intolerance, bullying and sexual harassment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The British military also recognises civil partnerships and grants same-sex couples the same rights to allowances and housing as opposite-sex couples.
The British military actively recruits LGBT people and have deployed recruiting teams to many Pride events: the Royal Navy advertises for recruits in gay magazines and has allowed gay sailors to hold civil partnership ceremonies on board ships and, since 2006, to march in full naval uniform at gay pride marches; British Army and Royal Air Force personnel could march but had to wear civilian clothes until 2008, now all military personnel are permitted to attend such marches in uniform.
The current policy was accepted at the lower ranks first, with many senior officers worrying for their troops without a modern acceptance of homosexuality that their personnel had grown up with. One Brigadier resigned but with little impact. Since the change, support at the senior level has grown. General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff (head of the Army), told members of the Army-sponsored Fourth Joint Conference on LGBT Matters that homosexuals were welcome to serve in the Army. In a speech to the conference in 2008, the first of its kind by any Army chief, General Sir Richard said that respect for LGBT officers and soldiers was now "a command responsibility" and was vital for "operational effectiveness."
The British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy now require all recruits to undergo Equality and Diversity training as part of their Military Annual Training Tests and stress tolerance, specifically citing homosexual examples in training videos, in line with Army, Navy and RAF Core Values and Standards, including "Respect for Others" and "Appropriate Behaviour."
In 2009, on the tenth anniversary of the change of law that permitted homosexuality in the Armed Forces, newspapers reported that the lifting of the ban had no perceivable impact on the operational effectiveness on the military. The anniversary was widely celebrated, including in the Army's in-house publication Soldier Magazine, with a series of articles including the July 2009 cover story and newspapers articles.
In 2015, following the fifteenth anniversary, the Ministry of Defence announced changes to its monitoring process for new recruits and added sexuality to their equal opportunities monitoring process.
In February 2021, the Ministry of Defence introduced the Armed Forces Bill 2021 that automatically pardons all gay sex criminal records within the UK military. It was also announced that military personnel dismissed on grounds of homosexuality will be able to have their service medals restored if they had been taken away.
Peel, Clarke and Drescher wrote in 2007 that only one organisation in Britain could be identified with conversion therapy, a religious organisation called "The Freedom Trust" (part of Exodus International): "whereas a number of organisations in the US (both religious and scientific/psychological) promote conversion therapy, there is only one in the UK of which we are aware". The paper reported that practitioners who did provide these sorts of treatments between the 1950s and 1970s now view homosexuality as healthy, and the evidence suggests that 'conversion therapy' is a historical rather than a contemporary phenomenon in Britain, where treatment for homosexuality has always been less common than in the US.
In 2007, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the main professional organisation of psychiatrists in Britain, issued a report stating that: "Evidence shows that LGBT people are open to seeking help for mental health problems. However, they may be misunderstood by therapists who regard their homosexuality as the root cause of any presenting problem such as depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, therapists who behave in this way are likely to cause considerable distress. A small minority of therapists will even go so far as to attempt to change their client's sexual orientation. This can be deeply damaging. Although there are now a number of therapists and organisations in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible."
In 2008, the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated: "The Royal College shares the concern of both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association that positions espoused by bodies like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) in the United States are not supported by science. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore so-called treatments of homosexuality as recommended by NARTH create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."
In 2009, a research survey into mental health practitioners in the United Kingdom concluded that "a significant minority of mental health professionals are attempting to help lesbian, gay and bisexual clients to become heterosexual. Given lack of evidence for the efficacy of such treatments, this is likely to be unwise or even harmful." Scientific American reported on this: "One in 25 British psychiatrists and psychologists say they would be willing to help homosexual and bisexual patients try to convert to heterosexuality, even though there is no compelling scientific evidence a person can willfully become straight", and explained that 17% of those surveyed said they had tried to help reduce or suppress homosexual feelings, and 4% said they would try to help homosexual people convert to heterosexuality in the future.
Conversion therapy in the UK has been described by the BBC as "a fiercely contested topic" and part of a larger "culture war" within the UK. In July 2017, the Church of England's General Synod passed a motion which criticised conversion therapy as "unethical, potentially harmful and having no place in the modern world" and called for "a ban on the practice of conversion therapy aimed at altering sexual orientation." In February 2018, a Memorandum of Understanding which had been issued by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) in October 2017 to provide "protection of the public through a commitment to ending the practice of 'conversion therapy' in the UK" was approved by the National Health Service (NHS). Stonewall has stated that all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies in the UK have joined the NHS in signing the Memorandum condemning conversion therapy.
In October 2017, a church in Anfield in Liverpool was exposed by a Liverpool Echo investigation for offering to "cure" gay people through a three-day starvation programme. Labour MP Dan Carden raised the issue in Parliament, calling for a legislative ban on conversion therapies, which "have no place in 21st Century Britain".
In March 2018, a majority of representatives in the European Parliament passed a resolution in a 435–109 vote condemning conversion therapy and urging European Union member states to ban the practice. A report released by the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights stated that the UK was one of a few areas in the EU which "explicitly banned LGBTI conversion therapies." In July 2018, the UK Government announced as part of their LGBT Action Plan that they will "bring forward proposals" to ban conversion therapy at the legislative level.
On 20 July 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his support for banning conversion therapy throughout the UK, stating "On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that's absolutely abhorrent. It has no place in civilized society. It has no place in this country."
On 11 May 2021, as part of the State Opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth stated that the UK planned to ban conversion therapy. In her 10-minute Queen's Speech, which is prepared by the UK Government, she stated that "measures will be brought forward to address racial and ethnic disparities and ban conversion therapy." However, the Government's plans involve a consultation before any ban is put in place, which led to criticism by campaigners including Stonewall that such delay leaves LGBT groups "at further risk of abuse." This delay will further extend the current three year wait from when the government first pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018 and four years since multiple health organisations and patient groups signed a document in 2017 warning all forms of conversion therapy were "unethical and potentially harmful".
On 1 July 2021, it was reported that the UK Methodist Church canon law legally bans conversion therapy and also called upon the UK government to legally ban conversion therapy.
The Public Sector Equality Duty provision of the Equality Act 2010 requires that information regarding bullying based on, among other things, LGBT identity be published and that solutions be found concerning how to counter this issue. The first information regarding schools and pupils located in England and English-governed public authorities in Scotland and Wales were published on 6 April 2012. In 2013, Ofsted published guidelines concerning how to counter homophobic and transphobic bullying at schools in England. Part of these guidelines included sex and relationships education for LGBT pupils.
On 12 February 2018, the Church of England's Education Office published a policy endorsing sex education which includes, among other things, LGBT education. Concerning sexuality, the policy states "sex education should include an understanding that all humans are sexual beings and that sexual desire is natural. Pupils should be taught that humans express their sexuality differently and that there is diversity in sexual desire". The policy also states that "pupils must be allowed to explore questions of identity and how we value our own identity and the uniqueness of other people. PSHE [Personal, Social, Health and Economic education] must help pupils recognise their true identity, and teach them that our media-framed, market-driven culture that often leads to body image anxiety can be challenged. This issue is the focus of the Bishop of Gloucester's #liedentity campaign which aims to challenge negative body image and encouraging young people to look within to discover true value and beauty."
In July 2018, Education Minister Damian Hinds announced new government regulations concerning sex education. Topics such as mental wellbeing, consent, keeping safe online, physical health and fitness, and LGBT issues will be covered under the new guidelines, which are the first changes to sex education regulations since 2000, and which will be mandatory in all primary and secondary schools in England from September 2020 onward. The move was welcomed by LGBT groups in particular, who cited statistics showing that only 13% of LGBT youth had been taught about healthy same-sex relationships in schools. In addition, parents will retain certain rights to veto sex education lessons, but by the age of 16, the child may attend the lessons regardless of the parents' wishes. The draft guidance states: "By the end of primary school, pupils should know that others' families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children's families are also characterised by love and care for them." The guidance for secondary schools adds: "Pupils should be taught the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way... All pupils should feel that the content is relevant to them and their developing sexuality."
This followed reports of some religious schools deliberately avoiding the issue, most notably an Orthodox Jewish school in north London which in 2018 had removed all references to the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution throughout their textbooks. According to the Department of Education, faith-based schools would no longer have a right to opt-out of sex education lessons. In September 2018, the UK's Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, agreed to comply with this new policy and published guidelines on how to teach LGBT sex education in British Jewish schools.
In October 2018, The Sunday Times reported that the British Government had decided to grant exemptions to private schools from LGBT-inclusive education. In November 2018, however, both the PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum published a policy road-map which stated, among other things, that "the law requires that Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) is to be taught in all secondary schools in England, and that Relationships Education is to be taught in all primary schools in England." The road-map also detailed 10 steps which will be used to enforce the policy, and also stated that "Health Education will also be mandatory in all government funded schools, which includes content on puberty." In February 2019, the Department of Education enacted a statutory guidance policy which will assist schools in England with PSHE when it becomes compulsory in 2020.
A measure to make PSHE compulsory received approval from the House of Lords in April 2019. The Department for Education (DfE) published final statutory guidance for teaching Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education in June 2019. The guidelines, which were also published by the House of Commons, require, among other things, acknowledgement of England's laws concerning LGBT rights, including the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and the protection of the "physical and mental well-being" of LGBT children. Despite not mandatory until September 2020, schools in England will be encouraged to enact the new PSHE curriculum starting in September 2019.
Wales similarly announced new regulations about sex education in May 2018, which will also discuss LGBT issues in schools. The regulations, expected to come into force in 2022, will be mandatory from Year 7 (age 11–12).
The Scottish National Party's 2016 manifesto supports sex education classes, as well as "equality training" for teachers, that would cover LGBT issues. In November 2018, the Scottish Government announced the implementation of LGBT-inclusive education in the Scottish school curriculum. The move was welcomed by LGBT activists who cited studies that have found that about 9 in 10 LGBT Scots experience homophobia at school, and 27% reported they had attempted suicide after being bullied.
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education Children's Services and Skills) assesses the inclusion of LGBT people in policies and the curriculum.
LGBT rights movement
This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2021)
The Homosexual Law Reform Society, founded on 12 May 1958 in response to the findings of the Wolfenden Report, was one of the first LGBT groups in the UK. Nowadays, Stonewall exists as the largest LGBT equality organisation in the UK and Europe.[clarification needed]
LGBT people are allowed to serve openly in the police and, in 1990 the Lesbian and Gay Police Association (LAGPA) was founded. The Association was closed in 2014 and replaced by the National LGBT Police Network.
There are large LGBT communities most notably in Birmingham (Birmingham Gay Village), Blackpool, Brighton (LGBT community of Brighton and Hove), Liverpool (LGBT culture in Liverpool), London (Old Compton Street) and Manchester (Canal Street), who all host annual pride festivals.
Many pride festivals are hosted in the UK every year. The first gay marches were in London in 1970, followed by the debut of the UK Gay Pride Rally there in 1972. Pride in London is the biggest and oldest festival, and has been organised annually since. Pride festivals are very popular summer events in major cities, and have expanded to smaller communities in recent years.
In May 2020, on the 5th anniversary of the passing of the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland, Amnesty International, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and Rainbow Project announced the first mass demonstration in Belfast, Northern Ireland, protesting against the failure of the UK government in delivering full same-sex marriage rights, despite legalising same-sex marriage earlier with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 as people wanting to convert their civil union into marriage are unable to do so.
Role of the Council of Europe
According to Juris Lavrikovs from ILGA-Europe, the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights has been a positive force for LGBT rights, especially with regards to decriminalising same-sex consensual activity, barring discrimination against transgender individuals in employment, equalising the age of consent, enabling LGBT people to serve openly in the military, allowing transgender people the right to marry, employment equality and the including pension right for transgender individuals.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the Percentage of the UK population identifying as Gay, lesbian or bisexual increased from 1.5% in 2012 to 2.0% in 2017. There are 1.1 million people identifying as LGB in UK. The 16 to 24 age group were the most likely to identify as LGB in 2017 (4.2%).
A 2010 Integrated Household Survey estimated 1.5% of people in the UK identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual – far lower than previous estimates of 5–7%. Interpreting the statistics, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) spokesperson said, "Someone may engage in sexual behaviour with someone of the same sex but still not perceive themselves as gay." According to YouGov, however, studies such as that of the Integrated Household Survey underestimate the true proportion of the population that is LGBT as they use a face-to-face methodology, and non-heterosexual people are less willing to disclose their sexual orientation to an interviewer. YouGov itself estimates, based on its panel, which was inquired via an online questionnaire, that the proportion of LGBT people in the UK is 7%. It is also estimated that the trans population of the UK is between 300,000 and 500,000 people, but Stonewall concludes that it is hard to define the LGBT population of the UK because some LGBT people are not out.
In 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for the inclusion of a question on sexual orientation in the 2011 census, but this was rejected by the Office for National Statistics who run the census.
In the 2021 census questions on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation were included for the first time. Stonewall supported the move, stating "gathering data on LGBT communities in the UK is a vital step towards building a society where LGBT people are truly accepted, everywhere and by everyone." These provisions were made in the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Act 2019 for England and Wales, and in the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2019 for Scotland. The guidance to the question "What is your sex?" was subject to a High Court case, led by Fair Play For Women, which found that sex should only be declared per the sex recorded on either a birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate, rather than any official document.
As national broadcaster, the BBC reflected government sentiment around LGBT+ people through modern history. In 1938, the BBC broadcast "female impersonator" Douglas Byng, who was closeted at the time of broadcast. In 1957, following the release of the Wolfenden Report, BBC Radio broadcast a special programme titled "The Homosexual Condition" and the subject was discussed on Lifeline and Any Questions? television programmes. In 1965 the BBC postponed the broadcast of The Wednesday Play: Horror of Darkness due to the inclusion of a gay love triangle.
Following the Sexual Offences Act 1967, BBC television representation increased. In 1970, the first ever gay kiss was shown on television, between Ian McKellen and James Laurenson in a performance of Edward II. The first lesbian kiss was shown later in 1974, between Alison Steadman and Myra Frances on the TV show Girl, part of Second City Firsts. In 1987, EastEnders showed the first same-sex kiss on a British soap. In 1995, the show Gaytime TV was broadcast on BBC Two, the first to be primarily targeted at queer audiences.
Music continued to be censored by the BBC throughout the 1970s and 80s. In 1978, Tom Robinson's Glad to be Gay was banned by BBC Radio 1. In 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax was similarly banned from daytime and chart shows.
In March 2019, the first LGBT+ correspondent for BBC News, Ben Hunte was hired. In November 2020, it was announced that staff working in news and current affairs at the BBC were banned from attending UK pride marches, so as not to be seen as politically biased (even in a "personal" individual capacity). The BBC later clarified that whilst it was not a blanket ban, staff should seek permission before attending events.
In July 2020, the first same-sex kiss on the children's TV channel CBBC was aired, following a long-running romantic arc between two female characters on the Canadian teen drama series The Next Step.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2021)
Following the 2019 general election, an estimated 54 openly LGBT MPs were elected to Parliament, of whom 24 were Conservative, 19 Labour 10 SNP and Layla Moran from the Liberal Democrats, who became the first ever Pansexual MP.
In 1993, Stonewall conducted a survey of gay men and lesbians at work where they found two-thirds of respondents hid their sexuality at work and only 11% of respondents never hid their sexual orientation in the workplace. A follow up survey done in 2008 found that 20% of gay and lesbian people had experienced bullying at work.
Attitudes towards homosexuality amongst the British public have become more tolerant over time; according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, in 1983 approximately 50% to 70% of respondents of the three major political parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat) regarded homosexuality as "always wrong" or "mostly wrong" and in 1993 opposition to homosexuality was reported to have slightly increased amongst all parties. However, by 2003 attitudes had become more tolerant, with 25% to 50% of respondents regarding homosexuality as always or mostly wrong and by 2013, only around 20% to 35% of respondents in each party felt the same way. Liberal Democrat respondents tended to be less likely to regard homosexuality as wrong than Labour or Conservative respondents across each survey.
An illustration of social attitudes towards homosexuality in the UK was provided in May 2007 in a survey by YouGov. The poll indicated that legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was supported by 90% of British citizens. It also showed positive public perceptions of gay people in particular, but recognised the extent to which prejudice still exists. A poll in June 2009 conducted by Populus for The Times reported that the majority of the public supported same-sex marriage; 61% of respondents agreed that "Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships". There were few differentials by partisanship.
A more recent opinion poll, conducted in 2017 by Pew Research Center, found that 77% of the British public were in favour of same-sex marriage. Support had increased to 85% according to the 2019 Eurobarometer, which polled all members states of the European Union on the question. The EU average was 69%.
Towards transgender people
A June 2020 survey by YouGov found that British people tended to support people identifying as the gender of their choice, but did not support making the legal process easier. YouGov's analysis also remarked that British "[p]eople tend to be fine with transgender people using facilities for their new gender, but not if they have not undergone gender reassignment surgery".
|Dec 2018 (%)||June 2020 (%)|
|Agree||Disagree||Not sure||Agree||Disagree||Not sure|
|"A transgender man is a man"||43||32||25||41||36||23|
|"A transgender woman is a woman"||43||32||25||40||36||23|
|"It should be made easier for transgender people to change their legal gender"||28||49||24||28||47||25|
|"Transgender women should be allowed to participate in women's sport"||27||48||25||20||55||25|
|"Transgender men should be allowed to participate in men's sport"||37||39||25||31||44||24|
|"Transgender women should be able to use the women's toilet"||46||30||23||46||30||23|
|"Transgender men should be allowed to use the men's toilet"||48||27||25||49||28||23|
In 2017, 108,000 people participated in the National LGBT Survey, making it one of the biggest survey of LGBT people in the world. LGBT people were found to be less satisfied with life compared to the wider UK population, with trans satisfaction notably lower. 68% of respondents said they avoided holding hands with their same-sex partner in public. 5% of respondents had been offered conversion therapy, with 2% undergoing such therapies. The findings from the National LGBT Survey have been used to inform a 75-point LGBT Action Plan to address the key issues identified, including bringing forward proposals to ban conversion therapy in the UK.
Right of asylum
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2021)
Current UK policy around the right of asylum for LGBT people requires that they experience a fear of persecution and violence. It being unlawful to be in a same-sex relationship in an asylum seeker's home country is not considered grounds enough to grant asylum in the UK. Prior to 2010, a 'discretion test' was applied, although this was ruled unlawful in the 2010 Supreme Court case HJ and HT v Home Secretary, where the judge ruled that having to hide one's sexuality or gender identity to prevent persecution or violence was enough to meet the threshold for asylum.
In August 2021, the Home Office ordered the deportation of a gay man back to his country of birth Afghanistan - which is back under Taliban control. Homosexuality is a serious criminal offence within Afghanistan law. A review is being conducted to investigate the situation by the shadow Labour Party immigration minister in the House of Commons. A spokesperson for the Home Office later stated that all deportations to Afghanistan had been halted, pending review.
Summary by legal jurisdiction and territory
|LGBT rights in:||Same-sex sexual activity||Gender recognition||Recognition of same-sex unions||Same-sex marriage||Same-sex adoption||Military service||Official pardon||Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation)||Anti-discrimination (gender identity)||Other|
|England and Wales||Legal since 1967; age of consent equalised in 2001||Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004||Civil partnership since 2005||Legal since 2014||Legal since 2005||Since 2000||Since 2017 (Disregards available since 2012)||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of gender identity||Section 28 banning "promotion of same-sex relationships as a pretend family relationship" repealed in 2003|
|Scotland||Legal since 1981; age of consent equalised in 2001||Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004||Civil partnership since 2005||Legal since 2014||Legal since 2009||Since 2000||Since 2019 (Disregards also available)||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of gender identity||Section 2A banning "promotion of same-sex relationships as a pretend family relationship" repealed in 2000|
|Northern Ireland||Legal since 1982; age of consent equalised in 2001||Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004||Civil partnership since 2005||Legal since 2020||Legal since 2013||Since 2000||Since 2018 (Disregards also available)||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||/ Bans discrimination on the grounds of gender identity in employment and vocational training||N/A|
|LGBT rights in:||Same-sex sexual activity||Gender recognition||Recognition of same-sex unions||Same-sex marriage||Same-sex adoption||Military service||Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation)||Anti-discrimination (gender identity)|
|Guernsey||Legal since 1983; age of consent equalised in 2012||Since 2007, only allows a new birth certificate to be issued. Does not amend or remove records of existing birth certificates, extension to Alderney and Sark unclear||Since 2012 in Guernsey, 2016 in Alderney and 2020 in Sark||Legal since 2017 in Guernsey, 2018 in Alderney and 2020 in Sark||Legal since 2017||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of "gender reassignment"|
|Isle of Man||Legal since 1992; age of consent equalised in 2006||Under the Gender Recognition Act 2009||Civil partnership since 2011||Legal since 2016||Legal since 2011||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of "gender reassignment"|
|Jersey||Legal since 1990; age of consent equalised in 2006||Under the Gender Recognition (Jersey) Law 2010||Civil partnership since 2012||Legal since 2018||Legal since 2012||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of "gender reassignment"|
|LGBT rights in:||Same-sex sexual activity||Recognition of same-sex unions||Same-sex marriage||Same-sex adoption||Military service||Anti-discrimination (sexual orientation)||Anti-discrimination (gender identity)|
|Anguilla||Legal since 2001||UK responsible for defence|
|Akrotiri and Dhekelia||Legal since 2000||Legal since 2014||UK responsible for defence||Bans some discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Bermuda||Legal since 1994||Domestic partnership since 2018||Legal since November 2018 and between May 2017 and May 2018||Legal since 2015||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|British Antarctic Territory||Legal||Legal since 2016||UK responsible for defence|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Legal||Legal since 2014||UK responsible for defence|
|British Virgin Islands||Legal since 2001||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Cayman Islands|| Legal since 2001
(Age of consent discrepancy)
|Civil Partnership since 2020||Legal since 2020||UK responsible for defence|
|Falkland Islands||Legal since 1989||Civil partnership since 2017||Legal since 2017||Legal since 2017||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Gibraltar||Legal since 1993; age of consent equalised in 2012||Civil partnership since 2014||Legal since 2016||Legal since 2014||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of "gender reassignment"|
|Montserrat||Legal since 2001||(Constitutional ban since 2010)||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Pitcairn Islands||Legal||Legal since 2015||Legal since 2015||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha||Legal||Legal since 2017||Legal since 2017||UK responsible for defense||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of "gender reassignment"|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||Legal||Legal since 2014||UK responsible for defence|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Legal since 2001||(Constitutional ban since 2011)||UK responsible for defence||Bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation|
|Same-sex sexual activity|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||Since 1967 (England and Wales)|
Since 1981 (Scotland)
Since 1982 (Northern Ireland)
|Equal age of consent||Since 2001|
|Homosexuality declassified as an illness|
|Official pardon||Since 2017 (England and Wales)|
Since 2018 (Northern Ireland)
Since 2019 (Scotland)
|Disregards available||Since 2012 (England and Wales)|
Since 2018 (Northern Ireland)
Since 2019 (Scotland)
|Civil partnerships for same-sex couples[note 1]||Since 2005|
|Civil partnerships in religious venues||Since 2011 (England and Wales)|
Since 2014 (Scotland)
Since 2020 (Northern Ireland)
|Civil and religious same-sex marriage[note 2]||Since 2014 (England and Wales, and Scotland)|
Since 2020 (Northern Ireland)
|Adoption and family planning|
|Joint and stepchild adoption for LGBT persons and same-sex couples||Since 2005 (England and Wales)|
Since 2009 (Scotland)
Since 2013 (Northern Ireland)
|Equal access to IVF for all couples and individuals||Since 2009|
|Same-sex couples as both parents on a birth certificate||Since 2009|
|Altruistic surrogacy for all couples and individuals||Since 2010|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples||Banned for heterosexual couples as well|
|LGBT people allowed to serve openly in military||Since 2000|
|Transsexualism declassified as an illness||Since 2002|
|Right to change legal gender||Since 2005|
|Right to change legal gender without having to end marriage[note 3]||Since 2014 (England and Wales, and Scotland)|
Since 2020 (Northern Ireland)
|Anti-discrimination laws in all areas on sexual orientation and gender identity (including employment, goods and services, housing, etc.)||/||Since 2010 (England and Wales, and Scotland)|
Only limited protections for gender identity in Northern Ireland
|Laws against hate speech based on sexual orientation||Since 2004 (Northern Ireland)|
Since 2008 (England and Wales)
Since 2009 (Scotland)
|Laws against hate speech based on gender identity||/||Since 2009 (Scotland)|
No laws exist (England and Wales, and Northern Ireland)
|Laws against inciting hatred on sexual orientation through an aggravating circumstance||Since 2004 (Northern Ireland)|
Since 2008 (England and Wales)
Since 2009 (Scotland)
|Laws against inciting hatred on gender identity through an aggravating circumstance||/||Since 2009 (Scotland)|
No laws exist (England and Wales, and Northern Ireland)
|LGBT sex education and relationships taught in schools||/||Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, which includes sex and relationships, will become compulsory in England in September 2020, though schools in England will be encouraged to make it compulsory starting in September 2019.|
Compulsory for all schools in Scotland from 2018, and Wales from 2022
Schools in England must comply with the Equality Act 2010's Public Sector Equality Duty (2012) which includes LGBT equality
Ofsted assesses the inclusion of LGBT people in policies and the curriculum
|MSMs allowed to donate blood||Since 2021|
|Conversion therapy||/||Pending at legislative level. Banned by the NHS and all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies in Great Britain (but not in Northern Ireland).|
|Immigration equality and rights for LGBT individuals and same-sex couples||Since 2006|
|Recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity for asylum requests||/||Guidelines not applied consistently|
Some cases recognised since 1999 including that of HJ and HT v Home Secretary
Plans for guidance on asylum claims brought on by sexual orientation but not gender identity
- Civil partnerships give most (but not all) of the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage, but there are recognition issues in other countries and with the use of courtesy titles. Civil partnerships can take place on any approved premise in the UK and in approved religious venues in Great Britain (though religious venues are not compelled), but cannot include religious readings, music or symbols. Adultery and non-consummation are also not grounds for the dissolution of a civil partnership.
See: "Civil Partnership Act 2004" and "Civil partnership in the United Kingdom"
- Same-sex marriages give all the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage and can be performed on approved premises and religious venues in Great Britain (though no religious or belief body is compelled). Adultery and non-consummation are not grounds for divorce.
See: "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013", "Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014" and "Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom"
- Existing marriages continue where one or both parties change their legal gender and both parties wish to remain married. Civil partnerships continue where only both parties change their gender simultaneously and wish to remain in their civil partnership.
See: "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013", "Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014" and "Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom"
- Timeline of LGBT history in the United Kingdom
- Gay Rights Working Party—1980s work in London to combat discrimination and police abuse
- Hall–Carpenter Archives
- History of violence against LGBT people in the United Kingdom
- Human rights in the United Kingdom
- Intersex rights in the United Kingdom
- LGBT Humanists UK
- LGBT Network
- LGBT rights by country or territory
- LGBT rights in Europe
- LGBT rights in Northern Ireland
- LGBT rights in Scotland
- LGBT rights in the Commonwealth of Nations
- Sexual orientation and military service
- Stonewall (charity)
- Transgender rights in the United Kingdom
- This was 17 in Northern Ireland at the time but has since been lowered in line with the rest of the UK.
- "Law liberalising abortion and same-sex marriage in NI passes final stage". The Irish Times. 23 July 2019.
- Macculloch, J. A. (3 June 2014). Religion Of The Ancient Celts. doi:10.4324/9781315828220. ISBN 9781315828220.
- Manwell, Elizabeth (2007), "Gender and Masculinity", A Companion to Catullus, Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 111–128, doi:10.1002/9780470751565.ch7, ISBN 9780470751565, retrieved 12 September 2021
- PETER., ACKROYD (2019). QUEER CITY : gay london from the romans to the present day. HARRY N ABRAMS. ISBN 978-1-4197-3514-1. OCLC 1048940054.
- "Armed Forces Act 2016". Government of the United Kingdom.
- "Government announces date of first same-sex marriages in England and Wales". Pink News. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- "Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
- "The Marriage (Same-sex Couples) and Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2019". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
- "Scotland tops league for gay rights". The Guardian. 10 May 2015.
- "ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map Points To Make-or-Break Moment for LGBTI Rights in Europe | ILGA-Europe". www.ilga-europe.org. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
- "The Global Divide on Homosexuality Persists". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. 25 June 2020.
- "Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues" (PDF). Pew Research Center. 29 October 2018. p. 12. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "Sexual orientation, UK – Office for National Statistics". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
- "Gay Britain: what do the statistics say?". The Guardian. 3 October 2013.
- "YouGov – Move over Kylie: One Direction is Britain's gayest band". YouGov: What the world thinks. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- "Introduction to the review". equalityhumanrights.com.
- "A timeline of gay rights in the UK". The Week UK. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
- "On sexuality, the law still caters to the norms of public disgust". The Conversation.
- Cook, Matt; Mills, Robert; Trumback, Randolph; Cocks, Harry (2007). A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages. Greenwood World Publishing. p. 109. ISBN 978-1846450020.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT rights in the United Kingdom.|
- LGBT History Month United Kingdom website
- GLBTQ website article on the history of LGBT life in the United Kingdom from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century.
- GLBTQ website article on the history of LGBT life in the United Kingdom from 1900 to the present.
- Comprehensive UK and International LGBT news website
- (UK) LGBT History Project's Wiki