Supporting LGBT Pride Month 2023 – Is there a lot to be proud of?
But what it is and why is it important?
LGBT Pride month is an annual event that takes place in June. June, because that was when the Stonewall riots took place in New York City in 1969, an event that is often cited as the catalyst for the subsequent changes in the law that gradually improved the lives of LGBT individuals and families.
How has the law relating to LGBT issues changed in the UK since 1969?
The short answer is “very considerably”. In fact changes started a little before 1969. It was 1967 when homosexual acts between men were largely decriminalised. The Sexual Offences Act 1967, section 1 said: ‘A homosexual act in private shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of 21 years’. However, as the age of consent for heterosexuals was 16 the legislation itself was discriminatory. It was not until implementation of the Sexual offences Act 2003 that the age of consent was finally equalised.
Also, this year marks twenty years ago (in 2003) that the Local Government Act 2003 was implemented. This repealed section 28 Local Government Act 1988 which had prohibited local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality and prevented them from spending money on educational materials and projects perceived to promote a gay lifestyle.
Another momentous achievement was the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 which became law on 5 December 2005. The Act created a marriage equivalent for lesbians and gay men but fell short of calling it marriage. That changed on 29 March 2014 when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 became law, finally allowing marriage for same sex couples.
So why is Pride month important?
A possibly trite reply would be to say that rights that took so long to acquire can be lost and unless we remain vigilant and mark these occasions, we might find attitudes and therefore the law regressing.
Also, we must not forget the “T” in LGBT. Arguably the acronym is no longer appropriate as we recognise the wider group that do not identify with their birth gender which includes trans individuals but also those who are non-binary and gender questioning. Such individuals continue to suffer from discrimination and prejudice and, where some of the language used by people who do not support greater freedom for those questioning their gender, can be openly hostile and is remarkably similar to the hostile rhetoric from those opposing gay rights in the 1980s.
In the UK, the Equalities Act gives trans individuals protection from discrimination, but the protection extends only to an individual who is ‘proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process or part of a process to reassign their sex’. It does therefore not extend to individuals who question their gender or are non-binary unless they propose to transition.
For those proposing to transition it remains necessary for there to be a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before they can transition, something that arguably stigmatises trans people by perpetuating the assumption that being trans is a mental illness. In the current year, when the Scottish government attempted to change the law in Scotland to make it easier for people to change their gender so that they did not require such diagnosis, this was blocked by the UK government, in the first ever use of an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 to prevent legislation that applies only to Scotland.
Similarly, as late as 2020 the High Court effectively trounced the concept of Gillick competence for young people by preventing the practice of prescribing puberty blocking drugs for trans children. Although this was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeal, these and similar issues continue to make life less equal for people who question their birth gender.
Equally, Pride month and events that mark LGBT rights are also important because there are many LGBT individuals around the world who continue to face significant discrimination. There are now 34 jurisdictions that accept same sex marriage with Costa Rica being the latest in 2020. In contrast, 34 countries (as of 2021) have definitions of marriage in their constitutions that prevent marriage between couples of the same sex, most enacted in recent decades as a preventative measure.
More worryingly gay sex remains illegal in 64 jurisdictions with the death penalty still applying in 6 and a further 5 where the law is unclear meaning that the death penalty could be given. These include the popular holiday destination of Dubai (as part of the UAE). Very recently, the Ugandan government has signed into law some of the harshest anti LGBT laws, including the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’.
We need to show that such discrimination is not acceptable and do what we can to foster change.
FLiP is proud to be supporting LGBT Pride month which lasts throughout June. You may notice that our firm’s logo and our email sign-off have taken on the rainbow colours as one indication of our support.
At Family Law in Partnership, we are leading experts in all issues relating to same sex couples including civil partnership agreements and same sex marriages, parenting and children issues and financial arrangements following a divorce or separation. Director David Allison is one of the leading experts in this area of law. For expert advice contact David or any of our other leading divorce and family lawyers at Family Law in Partnership E: email@example.com or T: 020 7420 5000