Legislation, support and guidance for a more LGBT+ inclusive society
Everyone should live in equal right without fear of discrimination, prejudice or harm regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. What legislation and support is in place to protect and support people belonging to the LGBT+ community? And how can you offer support on an individual level?
The following legislations aim to protect and support people who identify as LGBT+, across the sexual orientation and gender identity spectrums. If you are ever in a position where you feel harassed, victimised or discriminated against, it’s good to know the laws and legislations that others, especially teachers, employers and colleagues are obliged to follow in relation to their behaviour or treatment towards you in relation to your sexual orientation or gender identity.
2000: Government lifts ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the Armed Forces. Before this point LGBT people serving in the forces could be fired.
2001: Age of consent for gay or bi men is lowered to 16. In 1967 this age was 21, and in 1994 it was lowered to 18 until in 2001 it was lowered again to match the age of consent for heterosexual people.
2002: Same-sex couples are granted the same rights as heterosexual couples when applying to adopt. Before this, same-sex couples did not have the right to adopt or foster children.
2003: Repeal of Section 28 which allowed legal discussions in schools around homosexuality and bisexuality. Prior to this repeal, teachers were not allowed to advocate discussions or resources to help or raise awareness about gay, lesbian or bi students.
2004: Protection of LGBT+ employees against discrimination at work. Before this law, employers were able to discriminate against LGBT+ employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity by refusing to employ or promote them. The Employment Equality Regulations made all of these discriminations illegal.
2004: Civil Partnership Act is passed. This entitles same-sex marriages to possess the same rights as heterosexual marriages in a Civil Partnership. Prior to this there was no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
2004: Gender Recognition Act is passed. This allowed trans people to legally change their gender, through means of birth certificate amendments, helping future legal processes such as marriage.
2005: Criminal Justice Act is passed to give tougher sentences for homophobic hate crimes. This entitles a person who is attacked because they are/they are thought to be gay to be treated as a victim of hate crime which elicits a stronger sentence to the perpetrator.
2007: Discrimination when providing people with goods or services becomes illegal. Anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity is entitled to the equal rights to goods and services, and service providers are not legally able to discriminate on these grounds.
2008: Incitement to homophobic hatred is made illegal. This means any behaviours or materials shared with others that promote homophobic views and hateful behaviour towards gay people are a crime.
2009: Better legal recognition is given to same-sex parents. Same-sex parents are given equal rights to fertility treatments as heterosexual parents, and it is easier for same-sex parents to be recognised as legal parents.
2010: The Equality Act is passed. This legislation brought together all LGBT+ equal rights under one law, to criminalise discrimination against people according to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Public services like schools and hospitals also have to show how their service is accessible to and supportive of LGBT+ individuals.
2013: The Marriage Act is passed. This builds on the Civil Partnership Act and allows same-sex couples to enter a marriage, not just a civil partnership. Those who hold a civil partnership can convert this to a marriage should they wish.
Currently within university? You should be aware of the services and support on offer to you also. You may or may not want to familiarise yourself with the on-campus presence of LGBT+ communities and networks, but can also utilise the student services that can improve your understanding of LGBT+ rights within university and the support that is available for any issues you may want to discuss.
National Union of Students (NUS)
The NUS LGBT+ campaign has been significant in changing the lives of LGBT students across the UK. Find out more here.
Many universities host an on-campus LGBT+ student society as run by the Student Union, which is a great way to get involved. Not only does it introduce you to many socials and events, but also expands your social network and can any help feelings of isolation. Check your SU’s website for information on your university’s LGBT+ society.
Student wellbeing centre
Within the Student Centre of your university, you will find access to wellbeing services that are designed to assist you with any issues you may be facing in relation to your sexual orientation or gender identity. This can involve face-to-face counselling, telephone counselling sessions and online help. There may also be an LGBT+ support group within your university.
Many universities are keen to offer specific advice to LGBT+ students surrounding recruitment processes, applications and the world of work, highlighting the entitled rights of individuals whilst experiencing employment.
Supporting the LGBT+ community individually
How can you provide support and inclusion every day? Here are some ideas to be aware of in promoting more indiscriminate and equal behaviours of your own:
- Be aware of what you’re saying. What you might not think anything of, might be hurtful towards others; for example, using insults that relate to the LGBT+ spectrum towards others in a ‘jokey’ fashion can be derogatory and ignorant.
- Don’t use someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation as a means of identity overall. Try to avoid differentiating someone from others by using their name shortly followed by their sexuality or gender identity – these should not be used as a core aspect of their identity overall.
- Promote awareness in others. If you hear someone use discriminative language or behaviour, try to explain to them that this is not a good attitude to have towards people who are LGBT+. A lot of the time, discrimination that comes from others is due to a lack of understanding and awareness, so promoting a better degree of both will contribute to increased inclusion.
- Don’t pry. Whilst a lot of LGBT+ people are happy to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, it is better to have them instigate a conversation around this. Whilst intentions may be innocent, interest can sometimes be mistaken for prying, and it is better to be treated as equal and not defined by sexual orientation or gender identity when interacting with others.
- Be an ally and a friend! Explore being an ally and how you can promote inclusiveness on campus. Whilst being aware of your behaviours towards LGBT+ people, you should focus on treating everyone equally, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. This will decrease any segregation or discrimination of those who belong to the LGBT community, and involve and include everyone equally.