Britain’s rocky path with LGBTQ+ rights
27 July 1967 was when it all began.
MPs concluded that sexual activity between men over the age of 21 should be finally legalised in England and Wales, provided it was consensual and in private.
Then the HIV/AIDs crisis hit the world in the 1980s. Stigmatism towards the LGBTQ+ community remained at an all-time high. Gay rights in the UK suffered a setback as the government under Thatcher’s control passed the much-hated Section 28 – a law that still impacts us to this day. Promotion or discussion of homosexuality was therefore banned in schools.
The turning point
The 2000s saw LGBTQ+ rights on the rise. These policies were put forward under Blair’s Labour government, such as:
- The repeal of Section 28.
- LGBTQ+ being allowed to serve in the military openly.
- Adoption allowed for LGBTQ+ couples.
- The age of consent lowered to 16.
- The introduction of civil unions.
The Equality Act came into force in 2010, with sexual orientation and gender identity finally protected under law. Discrimination based on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity basically became illegal and flagged as ‘hate speech’.
On 21 May 2013, the government overwhelmingly ruled in favour of same-sex marriage legalisation in England and Wales. The first ceremony took place on 29 March 2014, with the law finally coming into force. It was a historic landmark decision – the hard-fought battle for marriage equality was won.
The country’s LGBTQ+ population had a reason to celebrate.
The map of the UK’s progressive stance on LGBT rights
The UK has become more progressive – especially in politics. The country has seen its LGBTQ+ voter base rise dramatically over the past few years, with pro-equality leaders taking the helm of their respective party’s leadership.
The UK Parliament currently holds the record for the highest amount of LGBTQ+ MPs in the history of British government – with at least 50 elected in the 2019 general election. A majority of members elected were from the two main parties: the Conservative Party (24) and the Labour Party (20).
We finally had a voice in Parliament.
But how exactly has Parliament swayed thoughts from politicians and voters alike on inclusion in politics?
Nick Allen, Conservative Councillor for Bessacarr ward
“I’ve been a Conservative Party member since 2001. Since 2015, I’ve been a councillor on Doncaster City Council. I work for Don Valley’s Conservative MP, Nick Fletcher.”
“Issues concerning discrimination locally and growing up in a homophobic environment spurned my interest in politics.
There are many openly gay parliamentarians and local council members. For many gay people, despite their political party, politics is the safest space it has ever been. I hope it doesn’t discourage LGBT people from seeking a political career.”
“There is, however, a nagging doubt that much more needs to be done.”
The election of gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender MPs would never have been possible if not for the voters.
Meg Erlam, Labour Party voter in St. Helens, Merseyside
“More needs to be done for the rights of transgender people. We need more mental health support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“There has been a slight progression since same-sex marriage became law. Unfortunately, being LGBT is still not fully accepted in daily life across the UK. More MPs should be representing us in Parliament.
“The lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sex education is also a problem in schools.”
The UK has become a haven for LGBTQ+ people more than it was 20 years ago.
Suppose the last 50 years has taught us anything. Liberal democracies can become a beacon of hope for those whose voices haven’t been heard for a long time.