As Pride month in the UK (and around the world) draws to a close, we have been reflecting on the positive evolutions that we have seen in the family law landscape, particularly over the last two decades. We have all been celebrating Pride - our colleagues, family and friends in the LGBTQ+ community and also what this means for the diverse and wonderful families we work with - as well as acknowledging the immense journey and considerable obstacles the community has faced and continues to face.
The human rights of LGBTQ+ persons have historically been undermined and it has largely been due to the dedicated campaigning of the LGBTQ+ community and allies which has brought about real change. There were huge protests about the implementation of the very controversial section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited the 'promotion' of homosexuality by local authorities, before its eventual repeal in 2003. This is just one reason why it is important to recognise and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and rights during Pride month.
Civil Partnership Act 2004 and Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
One of the first pieces of transformative legislation was the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which came into effect in December 2005. This Act allowed same sex couples to be legally recognised for the first time. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same sex couples to form a civil partnership which would then give them almost identical rights to married couples (for example in respect of pensions, inheritance and indeed to have legal recognition).
It was then with great jubilation that same sex marriage became legal in the UK - with the first same sex marriages taking place in March 2014.
Most countries recognise a marriage which has taken place in the UK, but same sex marriage is not recognised in some countries. Many countries recognise civil partnerships, but again, same sex civil partnerships are not recognised in others.
There have been further evolutions in this area - civil partnerships can be converted into marriages and, since 31 December 2019, civil partnerships are also now available for opposite sex couples.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Acts (HFEA) 1990 and 2008
It is now over 40 years since the first 'IVF baby' was born and the evolution in this area of law has been hugely significant over the past three decades - particularly concerning legal parentage. In 2009, following the enactment of the HFEA 2008, same sex female couples and unmarried couples could both be recognised as legal parents of their children without having to adopt. Since 2019, single parents can also be recognised as their child's legal parent following surrogacy.
Despite notable obstacles and an unclear legal framework, surrogacy is now much more widely accepted and accessible and public policy considerations in this area have changed dramatically - this allows the greter acceptance of diverse and modern families. The Law Commission is currently undertaking a consultation into reform of UK surrogacy law and final proposals for reform are expected in early 2022.
Gender Recognition Act 2004
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowed, and legally recognised, for the first time, trans adults to change their legal gender. The legal process is not straightforward: a Gender Recognition Certificate needs to be applied for (and approved by the Gender Recognition Panel). Certain criteria need to be met and evidence is required, as well as two medical reports (to substantiate that the applicant has or has had gender dysphoria) and there are other hurdles - particularly if a trans adult is married or in a civil partnership.
There has been a lot of campaigning for change in this area of law and it is considered out of date and in need of reform.
Whilst the UK has come a long way in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion, we recognise that the journey continues, and we look forward to seeing what other law changes will take place over the next thirty years (and beyond!)
Pride month is about teaching tolerance, education in pride history and continuing to move forward in equality.