Today’s guest blog is from Chas Brickland, where he takes a look at the important LGBT legislative changes which Queen Elizabeth 2 has signed into law during her monarchy to date.
The Queen has seen many changes come to pass in the UK during her reign, some of which she has had direct involvement with and many which have improved the lives of LGBT people in the UK. As monarch, she has had to sign into law over 20 pieces of legislation that have improved the rights and lives of LGBT people here. However, we shouldn’t overlook that she is still monarch in over 10 countries in which being gay could see you serving time in prison and remains head of the Commonwealth which has 42 member countries where homosexuality is banned.
She has only spoken publicly once about LGBT rights when she welcomed civil partnerships in the 2003/2004 session of parliament and it could be argued that much of the praise she has received from various news outlets on her LGBT rights record is misplaced. However, it has also been argued the Queen does wield some very real and very potent power and should she have chosen to do so, could have blocked this legislation. Of course, a monarch in the UK in this century would surely face an intense public backlash for any political interference, as suggested by the public’s reaction to allegations that members of the royal family were pushing the limits of acceptability with their whisperings to parliament.
All that being said, for the sake of enjoying the moment and celebrating what has been a dynamic period in British society, I’ll put aside my republican inclinations and give to you my top five “Pieces of legislation the Queen has been involved in, which have in some way benefited the LGBT population over the last 63 odd years.”
Sexual Offences Act, 1967
July 27 1967, the Sexual Offences Act was the first monumental step of many in which homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales. This was the beginning of it all for the LGBT community as it was the first official recognition that being LGBT wasn’t something to be punished. This was a small step and left us far from equal in the eyes of the law but it did lay the foundations for all of the incremental changes that followed.
Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000
This piece of legislation saw the age of consent equalised. Now we had progressed from a place where being gay was legal to one where we were starting to really see a shift from tolerance to acceptance. This legislation sent the message that LGBT people were deserving of equal treatment under the law and it therefore logically follows they are deserving of equal treatment by society.
Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
A recognition that the love we share, the partnerships we form and the families we build are just as valid and worthy of public acknowledgment as any other. To me, civil partnerships were always a cop out – this was the biggy. This piece of legislation did more than give us the right to marry, it made us feel part of a society whose institutions have excluded us and marginalised us for centuries.
Equality Act, 2006
I geek out over provision of goods and services legislation – I think the measure of a society is one in which everyone has equal access to any goods or services which are offered to the general public and all services which are publicly provided including education, health and employment (yes, i know employment isn’t really a service, go with it). This piece of legislation prohibited anyone from discriminating against people on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity and has become the backbone of protections for LGBT people who are facing intolerance or homophobia.
Section 28 repealed, 2003
This one is particularly personal to me as I remember being in college and being told to talk about being gay or to hold hands with another boy at college could land me on the sexual offences register. This was an insidious and poorly written piece of legislation which made teachers feel they were unable to talk about LGBT issues for fear of being prosecuted. It’s repeal was more than a decade ago but sex education in schools still has a long way to go. If Section 28 hadn’t been repealed, the question of when children should be taught about these issues would be moot – they wouldn’t be taught it at all.
We have a long way to go still and I have made little mention of legislation that had a bigger impact on Trans members of our community. But what each of these pieces of legislation, signed into being by the Queen, has done is take those little and big steps to making us all feel equal and part of the same society, the British society.
And come on, let’s be realistic, it just wouldn’t be Britain without the Queen.