Timeline of UK LGBT Legislation

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Timeline of UK LGBT Legislation and campaigns mounted to challenge them.

See also Age_of_consent#Timeline_of_age_of_consent_legislation.


1102 The Council of London took measures to ensure that the English public knew that homosexuality was sinful.


c.1290 – Publication of Fleta, first book to mention a punishment for homosexuality in English law.




1533 The Buggery Act 1533, formally An Acte for the punysshement of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), made certain homosexual activity punishable by death in England. The Act was passed during the reign of Henry VIII, as part of a process of bringing activiites that had previously been covered by church law under the normal criminal law. It defined "buggery" as as "an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man" but this was later clarified as referring to anal intercourse.

1553 Mary Tudor ascends the English throne and removes all of the laws passed by Henry VIII.

1558 Elizabeth I ascends the English throne and reinstates the sodomy laws.



1726 The House of Margaret Clap (molly house) in London is raided by police, resulting in the execution of three men.

1785 Jeremy Bentham is one of the first people to argue for the decriminalization of sodomy in England.


1824 Vagrancy Law Amendment Act was an Act of Parliament that was designed to clean up London’s streets, but also suppressed men’s use of public space, it, in effect, banned cruising. It was followed by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1912.

1828 Offences against the Person Act 1828 known as the Lord Lansdowne’s Act, was an Act of Parliament applying only to England and Wales. It contained provision for unnatural acts and buggery. Up until 1861, the punishment for buggery was the death penalty, since the Buggery Act 1533. The Act was wholly replaced by the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

1861 Offences against the Person Act 1861 was an Act of Parliament which was similar to today’s criminal justice bill. Section 61 of the Bill dealt with “unnatural offences” specifying “buggery”. It replaced the death penalty for buggery with life imprisonment “for any term not less than ten years”. This section replaced section 15 of the Offences against the Person Act 1828. In England and Wales section 61 was repealed and replaced by section 12(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. In England and Wales section 62 was repealed and replaced by sections 15(1) and 16(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. In Northern Ireland section 62 was found to be incompatible with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and was repealed by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

1885 The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 raised the age of consent for girls to 16. Section 11 of the Act, introduced late one evening by Henry Labouchere MP, and hence referred to as the Labouchere Amendment, made "gross indecency" between males a crime. Gross indecency was not defined, as it was thought immoral to actually specify in law what it meant, but in effect any sexual activity between men, in public or private, became a crime. In practice, the law was used broadly to prosecute male homosexuals where actual sodomy could not be proven. Lawyers dubbed Section 11 the "blackmailer's charter".

1895 Oscar Wilde was given two years hard labour for Gross indecency.

1897 George Cecil Ives organises the first homosexual rights group in England, the Order of Chaeronea.


1912 The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1912 was an Act of Parliament that was designed to clean up London’s streets, but also suppressed mens’ use of public space, it, in effect, banned cruising. It introduced the public order offence of “persistently importuning for an immoral purpose”.

1921 In England an attempt in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 1921 to make lesbianism illegal for the first time in Britain's history fails.

1935 The Defence Regulations and Emergency Powers Acts (EPA)

1952 Mathematical and computer genius Alan Turing punished for Gross indecency by chemical castration.

1954 Alan Turing commits suicide by cyanide poisoning, 18 months after being given a choice between two years in prison or libido-reducing hormone treatment for a year as a punishment for homosexuality. A succession of well-known men, including Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood, were convicted of homosexual offences as British police pursued a McCarthy-like purge of Society homosexuals

1956 Sexual Offences Act 1956 is an Act of the Parliament that consolidated the English criminal law relating to sexual offences between 1957 and 2004. Section 1(1) replaced section 48 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, section 14(1) replaced section 52, section 15(1) replaced section 62, section 16(1) replaced section 62, and section 20 replaced section 55. Section 13 dealt with gross indecency. It was mostly repealed (from 1 May 2004) by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which replaced it.

1957 John Wolfenden published the Wolfenden Report that led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.

1958 The Homosexual Law Reform Society is founded.

1967 The Sexual Offences Act 1967 legalised sex between men in private, with an age of consent of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales, but not the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexuality was not decriminalised in Scotland until the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

1971 The UK Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was recognized as a political movement in the national press and was holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.

1980 Equivalent to The Sexual Offences Act 1967 happened in Scotland with the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, and in Northern Ireland two years later through the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.

1981 The European Court of Human Rights in Dudgeon v United Kingdom strikes down Northern Ireland's criminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults, leading to Northern Ireland decriminalising homosexual sex the following year.

1984 Chris Smith, newly elected to the UK parliament declares: "My name is Chris Smith. I'm the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and I'm gay", making him the first openly out homosexual politician in the UK parliament.

1988 Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was an anti-gay piece of legislation, which came into law on 24 May 1988 and was repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland, and on 18 November 2003 in England and Wales (it did not apply to Northern Ireland).

1990 OutRage! founded

Jersey, UK Crown Dependency, decriminalises homosexuality.

1992 Isle of Man, UK Crown Dependency, repeals Sodomy laws (homosexuality still illegal until 1994)

1994 The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 reduced the age of consent for sex between men to 18, and legalised anal sex between men and women, also with an age of consent of 18.

1998 Anti-discrimination legislation on grounds of sexual orientation passes in Ireland.


2000 Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000 equalised the age of consent for both homosexual and heterosexual acts, for both men and women, as 16 in Great Britain, 17 in Northern Ireland. It also made it illegal for teachers and other people in a position of trust to have sex with their pupils etc under 18. The Bill which eventually became the Act was introduced in response to a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. It was rejected by the House of Lords, and was eventually passed when the Government invoked the Parliament Act 1949.

Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 was an act of the Scottish Parliament which repealed the Scottish equivalent of Section 28

— End to ban on gay people in the military.

2003 Sexual Offences Act 2003 is an Act of Parliament that was passed in 2003 and became law on 1 May 2004. It replaced older sexual offences laws, including the Sexual Offences Act 1956, with more specific and explicit wording. In Victorian times it was deemed immoral to define offences such as gross indecency. Group homosexual sex was decriminalised by section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 being omitted, removing the offence of homosexual sex “when more than two persons take part or are present”.

Section 28 is repealed in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

2004 Civil Partnership Act 2004 introduced civil partnerships in the United Kingdom. Civil partnership provides the same rights for same-sex couples under the law as marriage, but the ceremony cannot contain any religious content or be held in a place of worship.

— The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows transsexual people to change their legal gender. It came into effect on 4 April 2005.

2005 Civil partnership laws comes into effect: United Kingdom (without joint adoption (England and Wales) until Dec 2005,[88] without joint adoption (Scotland) until Sep 2009, without joint adoption (Northern Ireland).

— Same-sex couple adoption legalisation: UK Subdivisions of England and Wales.

2006 Equality Act 2006

2011 Civil Union/Registered Partnership laws: Comes into effect: Ireland (without adoption rights), Passed and comes into effect: Isle of Man (with joint adoption).

See also

Timeline of UK LGBT History