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Gay Rights

There has been great progress in legislation protecting the rights of the LGBT community, but there is still much to do about society's attitudes towards gay people.

The more accepting attitude towards the gay movement can be seen in the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain and the EU and the recognition of transgender individuals as legally being of the sex they now choose to be. Public attitudes towards homosexuality have also changed: the vindictive scapegoating of gays of the 1980s has been replaced by a broader, though not total, acceptance by the general public.

This was evident in the reaction to David Laws' expenses scandal in May 2010 in which anger was focused more at the Daily Telegraph for invading Laws' privacy and on Laws' cavalier attitude to Parliamentary standards rules than on Laws' sexuality.

The Civil Partnerships Act 2004 created an institution that was similar to but legally distinct from marriage. Gay couples entering into a civil partnership enjoyed all the legal protections of marriage - the same tax advantages, the same inheritance rules. In 2014 in Scotland and in England and Wales, the governments finally introduced legislation to allow same-sex marriage.

Discrimination is a familiar foe to the gay community. There are clear gay legal rights to protect from discrimination in the workplace, as laid out in the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. It is currently far more trouble than it is worth for employers or co-workers to overtly discriminate against gays because of these rights, although that is not to say that it does not happen. Discrimination can be either direct ("We gave the job to someone else because we didn't want to hire a gay") or indirect, in which the prospective employer sets a requirement for employment that disproportionately affects a particular group or race, in this case gay people. There are also protections against victimisation and harassment in the workplace.

Gay legal rights have begun to percolate through to wider society - in March 2010 a gay couple who were turned away from a B&B in Cookham, Cambridgeshire because the owner said it was "against [her] convictions" to allow them to stay. Under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against someone based upon their sexual orientation, and a complaint was duly made to the local police, who said that they would investigate the matter. However these gay legal rights are hard to enforce as their efficacy or otherwise is really a matter of attitudes rather than rights - while the couple had the law on their side they still had to find another bed for the night.


Additional Reading

  • Gay Rights Movement

    Find out more about how the modern gay rights movement has been shaped and what it means for the LGBT community
  • Transgender Legal Rights

    Read more about Transgender Legal Rights and what this actually means for those in the community.
  • Your Legal Rights in Scots Law

    Find out what your legal rights are after death. In Scots law, you are prevented from disinheriting your partner and children!
  • Your rights

    Find out about your rights. As you may know UK law changes all the time and LGBT legal rights change too - so read up on the latest.
  • Discrimination Against Gays

    Read how discrimination against gays is reported and what it means for you if you're gay.

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