First Published: September 2022
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
As the United Kingdom concludes its 10 days of national mourning we've been considering the changes and reforms that have taken place for gay men in the past 70 years, during the reign of Her Majesty The Queen, Queen Elizabeth II.

Image from RawPixel
Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne, aged 25, on the death of her father King George VI, on 6th February 1952. In those days it was illegal for men to have sex with other men, trans people didn’t exist in the eyes of the law, and marriage equality wasn't even something you could dream of.

In 1971 the Nullity of Marriage Act was passed by Parliament, explicitly banning same-sex marriages between same-sex couples in England and Wales.

There was worse to come. In 1977, a bill to reduce the age of consent to 18 was defeated in the UK House of Lords and soon after Gay News Magazine was successfully prosecuted by the TV Campaigner and self publicist Mary Whitehouse for what was described at the time as ‘Blasphemy’.

Ten years later, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. The Act stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship".

Overall during the past 70 years The Queen has seen LGBT+ rights improve, thanks to the work of gay campaigners, politicians of all orientations and many of our closest allies. A majority of British people now accept advances in gay rights. A recent poll stated that 92% of people are totally or fairly comfortable with a gay or bisexual man, or lesbian or bisexual woman, being their neighbour, manager, GP, MP or Prime Minister. So what have been the major advances for gay men since Her Majesty came to the throne?

There were many prosecutions of well-known homosexual men in the 1950's and it took more than 10 years before the Government set up a committee led by John Wolfenden to consider what changes to the law there needed to be. It was on July 27th 1967 that HM Queen gave royal assent to the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, a true landmark moment for gay rights. The Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men over the age of 21 in England. It was followed by similar laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Image from RawPixel
There was not much to celebrate during the premiership of Thatcher or Major in the 80's and early 90's, but the greatest number of changes were soon to happen in the ten years of Labour Government from May 1997 to May 2007.

Prime Minister Tony Blair oversaw a greater step forward in LGBT equality and human rights than in any other period in our history. There were civil partnerships; the right to adopt; an equal age of consent; the repeal of Section 28; ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces; new laws on hate crime and the Gender Recognition Act.

In 2003 The Queen made her first public remarks on LGBT+ rights during her state opening of parliament speech. She said, “My government will maintain its commitment to increased equality and social justice by bringing forward legislation on the registration of civil partnerships between same sex couples.” It's true that the speech was written by members of the Government - not by The Queen herself, but it marked an historic first.

Image from RawPixel
Ten years later in 2013, The Queen once again gave her royal assent to another historic piece of LGBT+ legislation, bringing in marriage equality for all in England and Wales. She was quoted at the time as saying, "Well, who’d have thought 62 years ago when I came to the throne, I’d be signing something like this? Isn’t it wonderful?”

It would be 5 years before one of her family, cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten, became the first royal to have a same-sex marriage. In September 2018 he married James Coyle, an airline cabin services director whom he met while at a ski resort in Verbier, Switzerland two years earlier.

There have been other notable advances in LGBT rights in the past ten years - notably the pardoning of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing also in 2013. Turing had been convicted of gross indecency for consensual homosexual sex in 1952, just a few days after Elizabeth acceded to the throne. He was charged with Gross Indecency over a relationship with another man, and sentenced to be chemically castrated. Just two years later this brilliant man, who had shortened the war and saved thousands of lives as a result, committed suicide.

Though The Queen has been patron to hundreds of charities throughout her reign, she has never been patron to an LGBT+ organisation. A year after she announced Alan Turing's pardon, she gave a surprise acknowledgement to the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard, as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. She said, "Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary."

In 2016 her grandson Prince William appeared on the front cover of gay magazine, Attitude, stating that no one should be bullied because of their sexuality. A year later, the Government issued a posthumous pardon to all gay and bi men who were convicted under pernicious sexual offences laws in the last century which enabled police to criminalise people for being gay or bi.

Image from RawPixel
So in the past 70 years there have been many advances for gay rights, and some notable setbacks too. Around 2% of the UK population now offically identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual although polling company YouGov and Gay Rights campagners Stonewall argue this figure is most likely influenced by some serious under-reporting. They estimate that the actual figure is now somewhere between 5 and 7%.
LGBT rights organisations and very large LGBT communities have been built across the country, most notably in Brighton, which is widely regarded as the UK's unofficial "gay capital", with other large communities in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Southampton which all have gay villages and host annual pride festivals. This year more than 180 Pride events have been scheduled in the UK - all of them listed in OutUK's Pride Around the UK.


search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk shop | home | outback | more


  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.