Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 14:54 GMT


Is gay equality any closer?

Will gays soon enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals?

Equality with heterosexuals has long been a goal for gays, and events in recent weeks seem to have brought that day closer than ever.

Gay campaigners are celebrating the developments and believe they are now making progress.

David Allison from pressure group Outrage said: "Public attitudes are changing and this is having an effect on lawmakers."

Last week the House of Lords ruled that homosexual couples do count as families as far as housing law is concerned.

[ image: Five-year legal battle ends in victory for Martin Fitzpatrick]
Five-year legal battle ends in victory for Martin Fitzpatrick
In a test case, the Law Lords said that former Royal Navy serviceman Martin Fitzpatrick had the right to tenancy of a flat belonging to his long-time male partner, who died five years ago.

The automatic transfer of such property rights previously applied to only married heterosexuals or members of the deceased's family.

The judgement has increased pressure on the government to legislate for gay and unmarried straight couples to share the rights enjoyed by those joined in marriage.

Recognising "registered partnerships" would give the unmarried a new status in regards to tax, pensions and inheritance laws.

A clause for resentment

This week also saw the government vow to repeal the controversial Section 28, a clause of the Local Government Act 1986 banning councils from intentionally promoting or encouraging homosexuality.

[ image: Pressure continues on the government to address gay issues]
Pressure continues on the government to address gay issues
This much-reviled provision, brought in under Margaret Thatcher, has long soured relations between the current government and gay activists.

In the United States, a gay couple from Essex have both been named as father on the birth certificates of their surrogate twins.

Although this US court ruling does not directly effect UK law, it may fuel calls for similar rights in Britain, along with access to adoption for gay couples.

Much left to do

Laura Willoughby of Stonewall said: "Despite the great things that have happened in the last week there is still much to do."

Gay rights campaigners are particularly keen to see the government push through legislation on the age of consent for homosexual men.

[ image: It is illegal for gay men under 18 to have sex]
It is illegal for gay men under 18 to have sex
The Lords have twice rejected bills to lower the age at which gay men can have sex legally. While straight 16-year-olds can legally embark on sexual relationships, their gay counterparts must wait a further two years.

The government has pledged to succeed in changing the law.

Activists are also demanding that laws concerning gay men caught having sex in public be brought into line with those governing the straight community.

"Gay men can be charged with gross indecency, whilst heterosexuals get a milder charge," said Ms Willoughby.

Discrimination in the workplace

Many campaigners still point to discrepancies in employment law, which does not view discrimination on grounds of sexuality in the same way as cases involving race, sex or disability.

[ image: The US armed forces share the UK's stance on gay recruits]
The US armed forces share the UK's stance on gay recruits
A recent European Court of Human Rights ruling which outlawed the British's military's ban on gays has halted the dismissals of existing personnel. The armed services are still not compelled to employ homosexual recruits.

Outrage's David Allison warns that not all of the groups aims can be achieved by legislation alone: "What one government can do, another government can undo."

"I think equality will be achieved in time, but we can't be complacent and say everything is fully into place."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

31 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Gay promotion ban to be lifted

15 Oct 99 | UK
Judge backs gay adoptions

02 Nov 99 | UK
Gays struggle for workplace rights

27 Sep 99 | UK
Delight and despair at gay ban ruling

Internet Links

Stonewall (Gay and Lesbian Equality)


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online