As LGBT+ Month comes to an end, Michael Gill, Co-chair of Spectrum, looks back on the events that have shaped that history for the community.
LGBT+ History Month is great time to reflect on the LGBT+ rights that we enjoy in the UK – many of which have been fought for, but we now tend to take for granted these days.
Did you know that it wasn’t until 1967 that homosexual relationships between two men were decriminalised in England and Wales, and it wasn’t until 1980 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland?
And remember, just because legalisation changes it still takes society a long time to reflect this change.
So throughout the decades that proceeded these milestones, there continued to be gay bashing, prejudice and discrimination in all areas of society and other LGBT+ rights took many more years to achieve.
The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalises sex between two men over 21 and ‘in private’.
It did not extend to the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces, or Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, where sex between two men remained illegal.
The First UK Pride is held in London. Pride events around this time were extremely political and pivotal to LGBT+ right gained in the UK.
UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, introduces Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.
The Act states that a local authority ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.
Sir Ian McKellen comes out on the UK’s BBC Radio in response to the government’s proposed Section 28 in the British Parliament.
Denmark becomes the first country in the world to give legal recognition to same-sex partnerships.
Sir Ian McKellen meets UK Prime Minister John Major – the first time any sitting Prime Minister has met with LGBT activists.
The World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness.
The UK Crown Dependency of Isle of Man repeals sodomy laws (homosexuality was still illegal until 1994).
Following a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference in 1991, Press For Change, a key lobbying and legal support organisation for trans people in the UK, is established.
Stonewall begins its first major campaign for an equal age of consent in the UK.
British serial killer, Colin Ireland, is convicted of killing five gay men. He is sentenced to life in prison.
The UK House of Commons moves to equalise the age of consent for same-sex relations between men to 16. The vote is defeated, and the age of consent is instead lowered to 18. An age of consent for same-sex relations between women is not set.
The UK Crown Dependency of Isle of Man fully decriminalises homosexuality.
The UK Government lifts the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces.
Legislation is introduced to repeal Section 28 in England and Wales. The bill is defeated. Scotland abolishes Section 28. It remains in place in England and Wales.
Stonewall’s campaign to reduce the age of consent for same-sex relations between men aged 16 is successful as changes are made to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000. Group sex between men is also decriminalised.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed, granting civil partnership in the United Kingdom. The Act gives same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married straight couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed giving trans people full legal recognition in their appropriate gender. The Act allows trans people to acquire a new birth certificate, although gender options are still limited to ‘male’ or ‘female’.
There have been many more milestones not mentioned her, however it’s also important to reflect on LGBT+ rights around the world such as:
- 71 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. Almost half of them are Commonwealth jurisdictions, this can be viewed as legacy of colonialism with Laws being imposed on these territories by The British Empire.
- 43 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual sexual activity between women using laws against ‘lesbianism’, ‘sexual relations with a person of the same sex’ and ‘gross indecency’. Even in jurisdictions that do not explicitly criminalise women, lesbians and bisexual women have been subjected to arrest or threat of arrest.
- 11 jurisdictions in which the death penalty is imposed or at least a possibility for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least six of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE.
- 15 jurisdictions criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people, using so-called ‘cross-dressing’, ‘impersonation’ and ‘disguise’ laws. In many more countries transgender people are targeted by a range of laws that criminalise same-sex activity and vagrancy, hooliganism, and public order offences.