Annual Review 2011
Access to goods and services
- In March, a gay couple won a case against hotel owners who had refused to provide them with a double room accommodation on the basis that this conflicted with their faith. The hotel owners claimed they did not allow any unmarried couples to have double rooms and therefore there was no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, the Court disagreed and awarded each complainant £1,800 in damages. The case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In November, the hotel owners’ appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal and a decision is expected in 2012.
- In April, a gay couple was reportedly ejected from a bar in London for kissing. Though bar owners may legally ask patrons to leave their bar, they cannot discriminate when doing so. A kiss-in by LGBT human rights defenders was organised at the bar to protest against this case of discrimination.
Age of consent
In Gibraltar, the age of consent for sex between men was reduced to 16 years of age as a result of a ruling by the Supreme Court stating that the difference in the age of consent between lesbian or heterosexual sex and gay sex was unconstitutional. The Court made it clear that the legislature could choose to raise the age of consent but it would have to do so for all types of sexual activity and that, until it did so, the age must be equalised downwards. The Court also ruled that criminalising consensual anal sex between heterosexuals was a breach of their right to a private life.
- The United Kingdom opted out of implementation of the EU Asylum Qualifi cation Directive (2011/95/EU), which among other provisions covers sexual orientation and gender identity.
- A Tanzanian LGBT human rights defender was denied asylum in the UK. The decision-makers based their decision on their belief that the man lacked credibility and sufficiently high levels of knowledge about the gay community in Tanzania. A judge also noted that Tanzania was safe for LGBT people, in part because an LGBT advocacy organisation exists there. Following a campaign the man was released from detention but has not yet been granted asylum or leave to remain in the UK. His case is expected to be heard in 2012.
- Immigration judges granted asylum to a Jamaican lesbian, on appeal, on the grounds that if returned to Jamaica, she would not be able to live openly as a lesbian for fear of persecution.
- From mid-2011, the UK government started to collect statistics on the claims for asylum made on the basis of sexual orientation.
Bias motivated speech
- A man was fined £100 for posting stickers in an East London neighbourhood that proclaimed the area a “gay-free zone.” LGBT human rights defenders criticised the punishment for being insufficient.
- The Conservative Party suspended one of its elected officials after he sent a tweet which suggested that legalising marriage for same-sex couples was akin to allowing marriage with animals.
- In June, the Scottish Government introduced legislation for a criminal off ence of off ensive behaviour at football matches. This explicitly includes homophobic and transphobic behaviour. The legislation will come into effect in March 2012.
Bias motivated violence
- A man who threatened to shoot Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, an LGB charity, as well as two civil partners who had won compensation for being denied double bed accommodation at a Bed and Breakfast, pleaded guilty to “making threats to kill” and was sentenced to an eight month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. In his email he also threatened those who supported human rights for the “homosexual community,” and referred to his targets as “homosexual vermin.”
- In September, the first conviction for a crime aggravated by transgender prejudice was handed down in Scotland. A serving soldier was convicted of breach of the peace by behaving in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause fear and alarm. The man had arrived uninvited at the premises where the victim was staying, had demanded that she vacate the bedroom, elbowed her, threatened her and shouted abuse related to her trans identity. He was fined £350, £150 of which was added because of the prejudice involved in the offence.
- The sentence of David Copeland, a nail bomber convicted and sentenced to six life sentences in June 2000, was upheld by the Court of Appeal in June. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 50 years and had appealed to have the tariff reduced. His third bomb targeted the Admiral Duncan pub in London and was deliberately intended to kill gay men. The bombing had killed three people and injured more than 60 others.
Equality and non-discrimination
- In March, the government published Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward which it described as a “blueprint for the Government’s action to tackle LGB&T inequality.”
- In July, EHRC announced that it would be seeking leave to intervene in four cases before the European Court of Human Rights relating to religious discrimination in the workplace. Two of the cases involved dismissal of people who had refused to provide services to same-sex couples. In one case a registrar refused to conduct civil partnership services and in another a counsellor for Relate, a relationship counselling service, refused to counsel same-sex couples. Both individuals lost their claims for unfair dismissal. The Commission argued that the current application of human rights and equality law does not adequately reflect freedom of religion and belief and suggested that it is possible to accommodate expression of religion and belief alongside the rights of those who are not religious as well as the needs of business. In response to concerns about the Commission’s action it said it would neither condone nor permit the refusal of public services to lesbian or gay people.
- In December, the first national Transgender Action Plan was published, containing “firm commitments to improve the lives of transgender people and support businesses and public bodies so they have the right tools to support transgender people.”
- In March, the High Court decided it was acceptable to deny foster parenting status to a Christian couple because they had stated they would not tell a child that homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle. The Court considered that placing a child with a family who disapproved of homosexuality could conflict with the agency’s responsibility to safeguard the well-being of the child.
- In March, the Isle of Man introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples, almost 20 years after the island decriminalised same-sex sexual activity, thereby granting same-sex couples the same rights as married couples in terms of inheritance, pensions, and taxes.
- In July, Jersey passed legislation allowing for civil partnerships for same-sex couples, including in places of worship if religious organisations chose to do so.
- In September, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on “the registration of civil partnerships” and “same sex marriage,” stating at the outset of the consultation that the government considered that religious ceremonies for civil partnerships should no longer be prohibited and that marriage equality for same-sex couples should be introduced. The government was also of the view that no religious body or its celebrants should be required to carry out marriages of same-sex couples or civil partnership ceremonies. The suggestion that marriage equality might be introduced led to severe criticism from religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland. The Roman Catholic Church joined a number of smaller churches and launched a campaign called Scotland for Marriage to oppose any changes in the law.
- In September, the UK government revealed that in the spring of 2012, it would be launching a consultation on marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales, but explained that it would be restricted to civil marriages and would not extend to church weddings and other religious personally in favour of marriage equality.
- Both the proposals of the Scottish Government and of the UK Government for England and Wales, to allow marriage for same-sex couples, include a proposal to remove the divorce requirement for the purposes of gender recognition of trans people.
- In December, the law allowing for the celebration of civil partnerships in places of worship in England and Wales came into eff ect, permitting those religious organisations that want to to register civil partnerships of same-sex couples. The Church of England maintained its position that it would not allow the registration of same-sex partnerships. The same is true of the Roman Catholic Church.
- In December, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission took the Northern Ireland Executive to Court over its failure to extend adoption entitlements to same-sex and unmarried couples. In the case for judicial review, the Commission claimed that Northern Ireland’s adoption process whereby only married couples are eligible for consideration as adoptive parents is discriminatory. If the Commission wins its case, everyone in Northern Ireland, irrespective of sexual orientation or marital status, could be considered for eligibility as adoptive parents.
- The previous ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood was removed in England, Wales and Scotland; under the new restrictions, men who have had sex with another man within the previous 12 months cannot donate blood. The situation remains unchanged in Northern Ireland.
- The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy found a psychotherapist who had tried to make a gay patient heterosexual through conversion therapy guilty of professional malpractice. They suspended her license until she completes a series of training programmes.
Legal gender recognition
The UK Identity and Passport Service started considering gender options for passports, mooting the possibility that a passport would allow a person to choose not to indicate their gender identity.
Participation in public/political life
- The governing bodies of football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket and tennis agreed a Charter for Action to rid sport of homophobia and transphobia. The initiative received the support of the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and a variety of sports people at an event held at No 10 Downing Street (offi ce of the British Prime Minister).
- The Scout Association produced a variety of materials to promote the fact that the organisation welcomes members of the LGBT community including a document called It’s OK to be gay and a Scout! and one called Gay adults in Scouting, which reassures prospective leaders and volunteers that they will not be turned away because of their sexuality. Scouts have permission to attend Pride events in uniform, and the Association has supported LGB organisation Stonewall’s anti-bullying campaign.
Police and law enforcement
The 2011 Protection of Freedoms Bill removed from police records any convictions for consensual gay sex that were prosecuted under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act.