As 2011 draws to a close, PinkNews.co.uk takes a look back at the most important stories of the last twelve months.
While we cannot claim a thoroughly scientific approach to the rankings, the stories are ordered through a combination of how widely read they were, how much debate they provoked and our own editorial judgement as to the effect they will have on LGBT life in the UK.
10 – Thousands of primary school pupils are recorded for incidents of homophobia
Thousands of primary school children were labelled ‘homophobic’ by their teachers, a Freedom of Information request revealed. All in, around 20,000 children were reported for hate-speech incidents which schools are obliged to record.
9 – Anti-gay stickers blight London’s Tower Hamlets
Mohammed Hasnath, 18, was convicted for putting up stickers in the East London borough which warned that it had become a gay-free zone, adding that Allah would be “severe in punishment”.
Hasnath was later convicted of spray-painting burkhas over women in Lynx adverts.
8 – Civil partners are ‘less likely to split’ than married couples
Gay couples were revealed to be statistically less likely to split than married couples this year. The ONS said: “Early figures suggest that marriages are more likely to end in divorce than civil partnerships are to end in dissolution.”
7 – One in every 20 gay men is living with HIV
The number of people living with HIV in the UK reached an estimated 91,500 in 2010, with a quarter of those unaware of their infection, according to the Health Protection Agency. If 3.4% of the adult male population were men who had sex with men, that meant one in 20 was living with HIV, the HPA said. Projections meant the number would top 100,000 by the end of 2011.
6 – Gay students ‘told to change separately’ for PE
A study of approaches to LGBT students in Yorkshire said some gay students are “being instructed to get changed for Physical Education (PE) away from other pupils”. One student said it was “partly” their decision to change separately because they were “scared”.
5 – The blood donation ban was lifted for Scotland, England and Wales
The lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in November, although Northern Ireland did not make the same changes to its rules. A 12-month deferral period was introduced in place of the ban, meaning gay men will be eligible to donate blood so long as they have not been sexually active in the preceding year.
4 – Scotland completes its gay marriage consultation
In September, the Scottish government has launched its promised consultation on marriage equality. It stated at the outset that all views would be listened to, but that the government “tended towards the view” that marriage equality should be introduced.
This month, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that research employed by the Scottish Catholic Church in its campaign to oppose the move included a study by the founder of a US anti-gay hate group, and a paper whose own authors explicitly said the findings could not and should not be used to deny gay couples any political rights.
3 – BBC invites Stephen Green to comment on Elton John
Although the event itself took place at the end of 2010, the fallout from the BBC’s decision to interview Stephen Green continued well into the new year.
The BBC’s flagship News at Six on BBC One invited comments on the birth of Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s first son. They chose the leader of Christian Voice, a man who supported the death penalty for gays in Uganda, comparing the proposed law with the UK and asking “Which country is the more civilised, I wonder, in the eyes of Almighty God?”.
2 – New rules for religious civil partnerships come into effect
The regulations did not come into effect smoothly, facing a revolt from some corners with claims that the regulations did not offer sufficient protection against equality laws, and would force institutions to hold ceremonies if they were to hold weddings. The challenge led by Baroness O’Cathain was rejected by the House of Lords and she withdrew her motion in mid-December.
1 – UK Government confirms plans for consultation on “how, not if” to introduce gay marriage
In September, the government announced a consultation on how to introduce equal marriage rights for gay couples would take place in March 2012. A Downing Street source said prime minister David Cameron had “personally intervened” to ensure that the consultation takes place and that the law is changed within the lifetime of this parliament.
During his speech to the Conservative Party conference, Mr Cameron said: “To anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.
“So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”
The decision for the government to back gay civil marriage came after a high profile campaign led by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to question the current bans on gay marriage and straight civil partnerships in the European Court of Human Rights. The current government plans do not however extend to either gay religious marriage or straight civil partnerships.