To celebrate LGBT+ History Month 2021, we’re taking a look back at the UK’s key legal milestones for LGBT+ families over the past two decades. Legislation regarding LGBT partnerships, parenthood and non-cisgender identity were non-existent within the UK legal system up until 2002, so it’s amazing to see such progressive change in this area of family law and we are proud to be a part of this continuing change.
Disclaimer: The information included in this blog is correct of 8/2/21.
2002 – The Adoption and Children Act
This Act allowed same-sex couples to jointly adopt children from care and meant that same-sex partners could adopt their partners’ children. It ultimately allowed same-sex parents to become full and equal legal parents for the first time in the UK. For many female same-sex couples who had already had children together, it meant they could finally apply to become joint legal parents.
2004 – The Gender Recognition Act
This legislation allowed transgender adults to apply to formally change their birth certificates to record their identifying gender. This Act still has a long way to go in terms of the simplification of the process and making it more humane as well as recognising other non-binary identities. However, in 2004 it marked a significant step forward in the legal recognition of transgender people.
2004 – The Civil Partnership Act
In 2004, the Civil Partnership Act allowed same-sex couples to register as partners, with the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. This Act helped protect LGBT people financially and paved the way towards equal marriage in the UK.
2008 – The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act
For female same-sex couples, this Act was particularly significant. It allowed two women to be registered on a child’s birth certificate for the first time. Couples who were civil partners or who conceived at a UK fertility clinic could now be recognised as their children’s joint legal parents from birth.
In 2010, changes were made to surrogacy law, enabling male same-sex couples to apply for a parental order to give a surrogate child a UK birth certificate recording two men as their legal parents. As a result, UK surrogacy matching organisations could open their doors to same-sex parents, which revolutionised the availability of UK surrogacy for male same-sex parents. For more information on the statutory instrument which brought these provisions into force in 2010, click here.
2013 – The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act
Finally male and female same-sex couples could marry in exactly the same way as different-sex couples! This Act outlined that same-sex relationships were no longer ‘separate but equal’ in law (as they had been in the Civil Partnership Act of 2004). An important symbolic step forward, although this was still not law in Northern Ireland (that came in January of 2020).
2014 – Children and Families Act
Today, this legislation, alongside other existing law, has provided a platform for same-sex parents through surrogacy to enjoy the same rights to time off work and pay as parents giving birth or adopting a child.
2018 – The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Remedial) Order 2018
The law change to this Act enabled single parents through surrogacy (including single gay men) to apply for parental order to become their child’s sole legal parent. Changing the law has, in practice, revolutionised the availability of UK surrogacy to single parents.
2020 – Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019
From the 13th of January 2020, same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland was made legal. This was a significant milestone in Northern Ireland’s LGBT history as it was seven years behind the rest of the UK in terms of permitting same-sex marriage.
We continue to look to the future regarding LGBT+ legal rights in terms of family law and we continue to support the LGBT+ community in their ongoing fight for equality.