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  • Christophe Locatelli

LGBTQ+ Legislation and What it Means

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. These terms refer to a person’s sexual orientation or what gender they identify with.

Unfortunately, for years, this community has been deprived of its rights or even marginalised by legislation.

graphic about lgbtq+ rights legislation

Are members of the LGBTQ+ community free to live equally to straight and/or cisgender people in the UK? And if not, why?

In 1967, homosexual acts between two men were legalised in the UK; the criminalisation of sex between two women was never written into the law. Nonetheless, how far have LGBTQ+ rights come in recent years in the UK?


LGBTQ+ rights

pride balloons in demonstration

Gender reassignment included in Sex Discrimination Act

In 1999, the Sex Discrimination Act was extended to make Gender Reassignment a protected characteristic, meaning it was illegal to discriminate against someone or treat them unequally on the grounds of being transgender. Down the line, the Equality Act 2010 would list sexuality as a protected characteristic too.

Male homosexual acts fully legalised in 2000

Despite the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, there were still restrictions within the law. For example, no two men under the age of the 21 could engage in sexual intercourse. It wasn’t until 2000 that the European Court of Human Rights determined that any law which prohibited consenting adults (16 and over) from engaging in sex was against privacy laws. This forced the UK to amend their legislation. Due to this legislation amendment, the ban on gay Military personnel serving openly was lifted in the same year.

Same-sex couples allowed to adopt

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 enabled same-sex couples to adopt together. Single gay or bisexual people are protected from discrimination when adopting.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act allows people who are transgender to gain full legal recognition of their gender. Once they prove that they have lived in their preferred gender for at least two years, they can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, which will allow them full citizen rights in their gender. Surgery is not a legal requirement in the UK to be legally recognised as one's gender; however, a diagnosis of 'Gender dysphoria' is.

Legal recognition of lesbian couples for IVF treatment

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 acknowledges the existence of lesbian couples, by legally allowing another woman, who is not the one inseminated, to be recognised as one of the legal parents of the child.

Marriage Act 2013

The Marriage Act allowed same-sex couples to legally have a religious wedding and ceremony. The law came into force in 2014, with the exception of Northern Ireland where the law wasn’t implemented until January 2020.


What rights do LGBTQ+ people still not have in 2020?

LGBTQ+ demonstration

Conversion Therapy

Conversion Therapy is the umbrella term used to describe practices that aim to alter a person's sexual orientation and gender identity, despite there being no classified illness to cure. The UK is still to officially ban this practice, despite major therapy bodies and the NHS stating it is dangerous.

Gender self-declaration

Although Gender Recognition Certificates are an option, obtaining one is still a complicated and intrusive process. Countries such as Denmark and Ireland allow people to complete a simple application form to self-declare their gender, and activists have said this has reduced mental distress. Unfortunately, consequences of this lengthy recognition process are people being unable to legally be a parent or marry in accordance to their gender, and the imprisonment of transgender people in prisons which are not consistent with their gender.

Blood donation

A man, who wishes to donate blood, must abstain from sex with other men for three months before giving blood. This restriction was born out of a rise in HIV cases in the 70s and the stigma which existed around homosexual intercourse.

No non-binary options on passports

The UK does not allow for a legal non-binary gender marker on passports, meaning non-binary people are misgendered when travelling.

For more resources, head to our dedicated LGBTQ+ Rights and Issues section.



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Szydlowski, M., 2016. Gender recognition and the rights to health and health care: Applying the principle of self-determination to transgender people. International Journal of Transgenderism, 17(3-4), pp.199-211.

United Kingdom, Civil Partnership Act 2004. Her Majesty's Government, 2004.

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United Kingdom, Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 2008. Her Majesty's Government, 2008.

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United Kingdom, Northern Ireland (Executive Formation Etc) Act 2019. Her Majesty's Government, 2019.

United Kingdom, The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999. Her Majesty's Government, 1999.

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Young, S., 2020. What Is Conversion Therapy And Why Is It Still Legal In Britain?. [online] The Independent. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 October 2020].

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