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12 major law changes in LGBT history

AS Liverpool’s Gay Pride revelers prepare to celebrate this weekend, local lawyer Julie Waring, a partner at Morecrofts Solicitors, looks back at the changes in the law that have helped to change the lives of the LGBT community since the first Gay Pride event took place 50 years ago.

“For centuries, people in same sex relationships and the LGBT community found themselves prejudiced by society and the laws of the country, so it is remarkable just how much has changed in the past 50 years”, says Waring.

“As with many laws, the laws governing gay and gender rights have evolved in tandem with public sentiment; as society’s views have moved forward in the UK, so have our laws.  

“I’m pleased to say we now have a proud, vocal LGBT community with many equal rights and freedoms to those in heterosexual relationships.”

Pride Dozen – The 12 laws that have changed the lives of the LGBT community since 1967

  • 1967 – The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is passed and marks the first step in decriminalising homosexuality. The new laws set three main criteria for a homosexual act to avoid being treated as a criminal offence; namely that it must be consensual, take place in private and involve people aged over 21.  However, it was limited to England and Wales and was still a far cry from full equality to the rules around heterosexual relations.
  • 1980 – Scotland decriminalises same sex activity in line with the 1967 Act and Northern Ireland had followed suit by 1982.
  • 1994 – The age of consent for homosexual men is reduced to 18 following an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, proposed by Conservative MP Tony Durant.
  • 2000 – The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 lowered the age of same-sex consent to 16, equivalent to heterosexuals. The House of Lords twice blocked the proposals by the House of Commons, but the bill was eventually passed and came into force on 8 January 2001. In the same year, the UK lifts its ban on openly gay people in the armed forces.
  • 2004 – The Sexual Offences Act 2003 comes into force, over-riding all previous sex-specific legislation, including the 1967 Act, meaning that the courts would now consider all sexual acts regardless of the gender of the participants.
  • 2005 – Same-sex civil partnerships are legalised under the Civil Partnership Act, granting many but not all of the same rights as those given to heterosexual civil marriages.
  • 2005 – The Adoption and Children Act 2002 comes into force following much debate in Parliament, allowing same-sex couples to adopt children for the first time. 
  • 2007 – The Sexual Orientation Regulations outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation, thus mirroring existing laws on sex, race and disability discrimination.
  • 2008 – Lesbians and their partners gain equal parental rights when babies are born via IVF or insemination processes, thanks to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
  • 2010 – The Equality Act 2010 is introduced, requiring equal treatment in access to employment, as well as private and public services, regardless of a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership.
  • 2014 – Same-sex marriage is permitted in England and Wales under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Scotland followed suit within the next 12 months but it remains forbidden in Northern Ireland. The legislation granted all of the same rights as those under civil marriages.
  • 2017 – The so-called ‘Alan Turing Law’ within the Policing and Crime Act 2017 grants posthumous pardons to the thousands of homosexual men from England and Wales who were convicted under previous sodomy laws. 

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