Liberation Generation: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality beyond 2000

Chapter 2

The reality of discrimination

20% of gay teenagers have inflicted serious self-harm or attempted suicide

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At Home

As an under 16 year-old, if your parents reject or abuse you because of your sexuality and you are placed in care or left homeless, you may not have the choice of being placed with a lesbian or gay couple.

Lesbians and gay men are denied equal parenting rights including fostering, adoption and assisted conception.

The absence of legal recognition for same-sex relationships and families pushes gay people disproportionately into private rented accommodation. Landlords can legally refuse to let accommodation to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.

If your partner dies, you may have to sell up or move out. Many councils and landlords will not guarantee tenancy succession rights and you will be taxed on inheriting your partner's share of your home.

At school

Anti-gay bullying in schools is rife, yet only six per cent of schools surveyed by the Health and Education Research Unit had policies to tackle it.

20 per cent of gay teenagers have inflicted serious self-harm or attempted suicide.

Although section 28 does not actually apply to schools, they act as though it does. It continues to inhibit positive discussion about gay sexuality, reinforcing the isolation and low self-esteem suffered by many gay students.

In health treatment

Hospitals often bypass gay partners of patients, seeking relatives for next of kin decisions.

You're not automatically entitled to make funeral arrangements if your partner dies because you were not deemed to be a close relative.

Even though, in Britain (not world wide) gay men still represent over a 60 per cent of new HIV infections per year, they still receive a disproportionately lower share of targeted health spending, e.g. on Merseyside only a three per cent of budget spending goes on gay and bisexual men, the biggest at risk group.

At work

Your job application can be rejected be just because you're gay. Your employer can sack you if a client objects to your sexuality.

Pension schemes rarely allow gay partners to benefit from their partner's pension in case of death.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 puts gay local authority youth and other such workers in a vulnerable position.

Employers are not bound to offer the same wages and conditions as those of heterosexual workers - fringe benefits will rarely be available to your gay partner.

From state institutions

There are numerous laws which criminalise for gay people what is deemed everyday sexual contact between heterosexual. 'Gross indecency', which has no direct heterosexual equivalent and can apply even where there is no direct physical contact between men, carries a maximum penalty of five years if either man is under 18.

Conviction for consenting gay sex with a 16 or 17 year-old has put gay men on the Sex Offenders Register.

Gay sex with a man under-18 carries a five-year maximum sentence compared to two years for unlawful sex with an under-16 woman. The under-18 man and his partner are treated as criminals, the under 60 woman as a victim. (- At the time of writing).

Although considerable progress has been made in official police attitudes, gay parties still get raided, and police still harass gay men on the street.

Killers of gay men have escaped conviction for murder by using the 'gay panic' 'provocation' defence, i.e. that a sexual advance by a gay person is so outrageous a provocation that it is 'reasonable' to fly into a rage and kill. Dr Riley was held to have 'provoked' her killer (in 1986) because she was a lesbian and refuse his advances. There have been the least 32 instances since 1986 were this defence of 'provocation' has been used. In 20 of these, the murder charge was reduced to manslaughter; in one case where the defendant admitted to the killing, he was completely acquitted.


Notes: Section 28 is an anti-gay clause within the Local Government and Finance Act (1988). It was included by the Tories, led by Thatcher, in a bill that was a huge attack on council funds and services, to scapegoat gay people for the cuts. 

It aimed to reinforce the idea that cuts were being made because of 'Irresponsible' public spending by ‘left-wing' Labour councils on gay and other minority community services. The main impact of the law has not been so much in prosecutions, but for councils and schools to 'self-censor', i.e. withdraw funding for gay community projects/services and to remain silent about gay sexuality in sex/health education lessons.

No court has yet ruled on the scope of this law.

Section 28 says: "2A(I) A local authority shall not - (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality; (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. (2) Nothing in subsection (1) above shall be taken to prohibit the doing of anything for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease."



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