LGBT+ Rights: Past and Present

For LGBT+ History Month, VP Education Sharanya walks us through the barriers that the queer community has faced through a timeline and provides an overview of the LGBT+ Equality Movement.

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Hi everyone! 

For LGBT+ History Month, I want to shed light on the struggles that the queer community has faced over time through a timeline and provide an overview of the LGBT+ Equality Movement. Some things you may be shocked to read, and others may not be so surprising. But I hope you learn something new that you can share, and learn how you can be an ally to the community.

The Timeline

1951: First Gender Reassignment Surgery 

Roberta Cowell is the first known British trans woman to undergo reassignment surgery and have her birth certificate changed. 

1967: Sexual Offence Act 

Decriminalised sex between two men over 21 and ‘in private’. It did not extend to the Merchant Navy  Armed Forces, Scotland (followed in 1980), Northern Ireland (followed in 1982), the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man (followed in 2006 with a full decriminalisation), where sex between two men remained illegal. 

1983: Ban on Blood Donation 

Men who have sex with men are asked not to donate to UK blood banks amid the AIDS crisis. 

1988: Local Government Act, Section 28 

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". 

1992: Declassification from Mental Illness 

World Health Organisation declassifies same-sex attraction as a mental illness. 

2000: Armed Forces and Age of Consent 

The UK Government lifts the ban on lesbians, gay men and bi people serving in the armed forces.

2001: Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 

The age of consent is lowered to 16 (having been lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994), making it the same as the age of consent for straight people. 

2003: Repealing Section 28 

Section 28 is repealed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, lifting the ban on local authorities from ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality’. 

2004: Civil Partnerships and Gender Recognition 

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’. 

2007: Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 

Outlawed the discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education and public functions on the grounds of sexual orientation. 

2008: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 

It recognises same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. 

2010: Equality Act 2010 

Officially adds gender reassignment as a protected characteristic and an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the ban on religious groups from holding civil partnerships on their premises. 

2011: Ban lifted on Donating Blood, 12-month Celibacy Clause 

The Department of Health lifts the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, although a 12-month celibacy clause is still in place for men who have sex with men to be eligible to donate. 

2014: Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 

The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales took place on 29 March 2014. 

2019: PSHE Curriculum Update 

A new PSHE curriculum is introduced in England, requiring that lessons include acknowledgement of LGBT rights and protect the physical and mental wellbeing of LGBT children.

2020: Relaxed Blood Donation Rules 

The Government announces that blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men will be relaxed further, focusing on individual behaviours rather than a blanket ban on any men who have had sex with men in the past three months. 

2021: Inclusion of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation in the UK Census and Ban on Conversion Therapy  

The UK census includes questions on gender identity and sexual orientation for the first time, meaning that data can be gathered on the numbers of LGBT people across the country. 

The Government announces plans to legislate to ban conversion therapy, as well as setting up a new fund to increase the support available for survivors.