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Role of Lawyers in Protecting LGBTQ+ Rights in the UK Part 3
In our final chapter on the role of lawyers in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK, we analyse the most recent legislation aimed at bringing equality and inclusion for this long-stigmatised community. From eliminating discrimination in the workplace to granting the right to marriage for same-sex couples, these laws would have never come to being without the positive contribution of activists, community members and, of course, lawyers.
There are more than 1.5 million people in England and Wales who identify as LGBTQ+ according to the official figures from the last census. It’s astonishing to think that until recently, such a huge number of people had to endure prejudice, discrimination and even be treated as criminals, just because of their sexuality. Thankfully, that all began to change in the 1960s.
Now in June, as we celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month, it’s fitting that we reflect on what has been achieved so far.
In our previous two articles, we looked at the major milestones in achieving equal rights in the second half of the last century. Now we focus on the changes that lawyers have helped to bring about in just the last 20 years.
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003: Fighting Workplace Discrimination
These set of regulations marked a significant step forward in the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace. Lawyers fought against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, pushing for comprehensive equality laws and protection from unfair treatment. The enactment of these directives ensured that individuals could not be discriminated against in employment and vocational training based on their sexual orientation, providing greater opportunities and protections for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.
Civil Partnership Act 2004: Legal Recognition for Same-Sex Relationships
This law granted legal recognition and rights to same-sex couples in the UK. Lawyers actively campaigned for the passage of this legislation. Their efforts focused on challenging the existing marriage laws and advocating for legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. The Civil Partnership Act allowed same-sex couples to formalise their relationships and gain legal rights and responsibilities similar to those of married couples.
Gender Recognition Act 2004: Protecting Transgender Rights
The Act brought about a significant shift in the legal recognition of transgender individuals in the UK. Lawyers such as Stephen Whittle, a transgender rights activist and professor of equalities law, were instrumental in advocating for this legislation. The Gender Recognition Act provided a legal framework for transgender individuals to obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender. It granted them the ability to change their legal gender and gain recognition of their true identity.
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013: Marriage Equality for All
The passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was a historic moment for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK. Lawyers such as Lord Peter Goldsmith QC and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC were prominent figures in the legal campaign. Through their tireless advocacy and legal expertise, they challenged discriminatory laws and argued for equal marriage rights. The Marriage Act allowed same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same legal rights, protections, and societal recognition as opposite-sex couples.
Repeal of Section 28: A Step Towards Inclusivity
This action, which took place in 2003, removed a set of controversial regulations introduced by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. Section 28 had banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools, stifling support and representation for LGBTQ+ individuals. Lawyers actively campaigned against this law, arguing that it perpetuated stigma, discrimination, and inequality. The repeal of Section 28 allowed for a more inclusive education system, enabling schools to provide support and guidance to LGBTQ+ students without fear of legal repercussions.
The LGBTQ+ community has faced a long and difficult battle to achieve greater equality and protection from discrimination. Much has been achieved but the battle is still ongoing. New developments will inevitably involve legal change, so it’s likely that lawyers will continue to play a crucial role in promoting equality for all.