Legislation impacting on gay men and lesbians
January 1902 to December 2007
A summary of the legislation impacting on gay men and lesbians follows. More detail can be found in related events and memories.
At the turn of the century, the 1885 Act which included the offence of ‘gross indecency’ was being used to arrest and imprison male homosexuals.
See Legislation pre twentieth century for more details.
In 1954, Lord Wolfenden was appointed Chair of a Committee to review the law in Britain relating to homosexual offences.
In 1956, without waiting for the outcome of the Wolfenden Report, the new Sexual Offences Act 1954 was enacted.
In 1957 the Wolfenden Report was published which advised that male homosexual acts should be decriminalised.
1967 Finally, 10 years later, Wolfenden's recommendations were enacted in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, commonly referred to as decriminalisation. Although consenting sex between two males of 21 and over was now legal, offences of importuning etc remained, along with the inequality of the age of consent.
1988 Section 28 also known as Clause 28 of the Local Government Act, preventing the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by Local Authorities, came into force in May in spite of the largest political LGB protests ever seen in this country in February and March that year.
1994 The House of Commons voted to reduce the gay male age of consent, although only to 18 not 16 as hoped and campaigned for.
1998 The House of Commons voted for 16 but the Lords vote overturned it and a three year battle commenced
Largely due to the concerted and co-ordinated efforts and pressure of Stonewall, changing social attitudes, and the commitment of the Labour Government under Tony Blair, the twenty-first century has seen considerable moves towards acheiving equality for lesbians and gay men.
2000 British gross indecency laws were successfully challenged in the European Court of Human Rights
2000 The ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the Armed Forces finally lifted after a ten year campaign
2001 we finally achieved an equal age of consent for gay men, of 16
2003 Homophobic assault was recognised legally as a 'hate crime'.
2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations became law making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in the workplace.
2003 Section 28 (Clause 28) is finally repealed fifteen years after its introduction in 1988
2004 Repeal of the Victorian sexual offences of gross indecency and buggery
2005 Civil Partnership Act 2004 introduced with the first civil partnerships registered on 21st December 2005
2006 The Equality Act 2006 established a single Commission for Equality which is the first statutory body to protect Britain’s lesbian, gay and bisexual population.
2007 Goods and Services Sexual Orientation Discrimination Act makes it illegal to discriminate against lesbians and gay men in service delivery.
Source: Predominantly Stonewall