There’s a common perception that when it comes to legal equality for LGBT people in the UK, the job is done.
It’s true that we’ve come a long way in recent decades. From equal marriage to the right to be protected at work and raise a family, the legal equality we’ve won so far has been a crucial foundation for improving life for LGBT people in the UK.
But despites this progress, we cannot forget how fragile these gains are, and there are still areas where not every LGBT person is treated equally under the law.
This general election gives us a chance to make our voices heard.
This general election gives us a chance to make our voices heard so that full legal equality for all LGBT people can become a reality.
Although equal marriage was made a reality for many across Britain in 2014, this right wasn’t granted to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.
Now that same-sex marriage is set to be introduced in Northern Ireland, it’s essential the legislation is passed swiftly in the new year so LGBT people, wherever they live in the UK, can marry the person they love.
For trans communities specifically, the 2004 Gender Recognition Act – the law that allows some trans people to update their birth certificate to reflect who they are – urgently needs reforming.
While groundbreaking for its time, the Act currently doesn’t allow non-binary people (people who don’t identify exclusively as male or female) or under-18s to have their gender legally recognised at all. Those who are eligible to apply must go through an intrusive, medicalised and demeaning process simply to update their records.
It’s vital that the Act is reformed to replace the current bureaucratic application process with a straightforward, de-medicalised system that is open to non-binary people and under-18-year-olds too.
But this election isn’t just about rights yet to be won, but also about protecting the rights we have gained.
Looking ahead, leaving the European Union (EU) will mean that that the UK government will be solely responsible for a lot of the law that LGBT equality relies on.
The law already says that we’ll lose protections such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on the day the UK exits the EU. It’s essential that we do not lose any of the equalities and human rights protections we had as members of the EU – and we must ensure that our rights are extended post-Brexit. This includes protecting all citizens’ rights after Britain has left the EU by keeping the Human Rights Act, and the UK’s signature to the European Convention on Human Rights.
And in light of the 2017 John Walker Supreme Court ruling, it’s essential this ruling is enforced fully and retained following EU withdrawal, so that surviving partners in same-sex couples can receive the pension they deserve.
Our human rights and equalities laws are the bedrock of the hard-fought gains we have won.
Of course, legal equality doesn’t translate into true equality – as we’ve seen this year, LGBT people still face hatred for who they are. But our human rights and equalities laws are the bedrock of the hard-fought gains we have won, and they must be protected and progressed.
As history has shown us, progress isn’t always a given. That’s why we’re calling on all of our supporters to #ComeOutVoting this general election – now is the chance for all of us to make our voices heard, and secure full legal equality for LGBT people.
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