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Decriminalisation Of Homosexuality: 50 Years After 1967 Act, Here Are 5 Obstacles To Equality That Persist

27/07/2017 3:33 PM IST | Updated 27/07/2017 4:17 PM IST

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act decriminalised sexual acts between men in private. It received Royal Assent 50 years ago today. 

The comments made during the parliamentary debate on the 1967 act before shows how far attitudes towards LGBT people had to come.

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A policeman kisses his boyfriend after proposing to him during the Pride in London parade this year

Even Roy Jenkins, the liberal home secretary lauded for pushing the reform, told parliament homosexuality was a “grave disability” that leaves people carrying “a great weight of loneliness, guilt and shame” and renders them unable to find “a stable and lasting emotional relationship”.

The 1967 decriminalisation was only partial. Scotland and Northern Ireland didn’t follow until the 1980s. Anal sex remained illegal until 1994 in England and Wales and was only completely decriminalised in 2003.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the acts between consenting adults was decriminalised across the UK, LGBT rights Peter Tatchell has noted.

Here are five barriers to legal equality in the UK that remain, 50 years on.

  • 1 Gay people can't wed in Northern Ireland
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    Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex couples cannot wed.

    The province's assembly at Stormont has voted in favour of gay marriage being introduced. In response, the DUP has invoked the 'petition of concern', a veto device that prevents laws passing unless a majority of Unionist and Nationalist members back it. As the vast majority of Unionists are DUP, the device empowered them to block it easily.

    The DUP is now in an agreement to prop up Theresa May's minority government, which prompted fears their social conservative views could gain a wider platform.
  • 2 Sexually active gay men can't give blood
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    At the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, the Government banned gay men from giving blood. In 2011, it changed the rules so they could give blood, provided they had not had sex with another man within 12 months. 

    The Government announced this month plans to reduce this period to three months from 2018. LGBT rights charity Stonewall said: "A shortened deferral period is an important move. The reality is that most gay and bi men will still be excluded from donating blood."
  • 3 Homophobic hate crime isn't on a par with racist hate crime
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    A homophobic hate crime carries a shorter maximum sentence than a racist one.

    If you harassed, abused or assaulted an LGBT person over their sexuality, you would be charged with the offence and your homophobia would be for the judge or magistrates to consider at sentence.

    But hate crimes over a person's race or religion are deemed to be 'aggravated' because of the motive. This allows longer prison sentences to be imposed.
  • 4 Transgender people still have to undergo 'demeaning' medical checks to be recognised
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    The Government also pledged earlier this month to change the Gender Recognition Act, which gives transgender people (transgender woman Chelsea Manning pictured) the ability to get new birth certificates with their acquired, rather than birth, gender.

    Under new plans, people will be able to self-declare their gender and no longer go through medical checks to prove it.

    For now though, anyone seeking a new certificate must go through what Stonewall calls the "bureaucratic and demeaning" process of proving to a Gender Recognition Panel that they have gender dysphoria.
  • 5 Same-sex spouses aren't guaranteed pension benefits
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    On July 12, John Walker (pictured) won a 11-year legal battle to protect his husband's right to his pension benefits.

    The Supreme Court ruled that employers could not use an exemption in the Equality Act that let them exclude same-sex partners from spousal benefits paid into pension funds before December 2005, when civil partnerships were introduced.

    They ruled it breached EU equality laws. While the court's ruling rendered the practice illegal, Brexit threatens to make the ruling redundant.

    Emma Norton, a civil rights lawyer who acted for Walker, said: "This ruling was made under EU law and is a direct consequence of the rights protection the EU gives us.

    "We now risk losing that protection. The Government must promise that there will be no rollback on LGBT rights after Brexit – and commit to fully protecting them in UK law.

    "How else can John be sure he and others like him have achieved lasting justice today?"

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