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LGBTQIA+ Parenting Rights in the United Kingdom

October 24, 2017
Katie Visco
Pregnant belly with heart

We tend to think of modern society as inclusive and unprejudiced, but the truth is, the law has never reflected that. It has only been fifty years since the UK decriminalized homosexuality in 1967 (although the Act itself was still problematic, as it made the age of consent 21 and only applied it to England and Wales). Still, great strides have been made recently in UK Law to revolutionize same-sex parenting and make it easier than ever for LGBTQIA+ parents to start a family. Take a look at some of the key milestones in UK legislation for LBTQIA+ families.

2004: The Civil Partnership Act was created, allowing gay couples to register as civil partners. This partnership gave the couples property, pension, inheritance and other benefits that married couples have. Gay marriage was legalized in the UK in 2014 and civil partnerships could be converted into marriage in England, Scotland, and Wales. 

2005: For the first time in UK history, children could have legal parents of the same sex. Same-partners were now able to adopt their partner's children and couples could finally adopt unrelated children together. 

2008: In 1990, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act forced fertility clinics to "consider the child's need for a father" before offering treatment. In 2008, this edict was lifted and fertility clinics were no longer allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples. Additionally, new parenting laws allowed same-sex female couples to both be listed on the child's birth certificate if the child was conceived through sperm donation, and same-sex male couples to be named on the birth certificate if the child was conceived through surrogacy. 

2015: Same-sex parents were given the right to adoption leave if their child was born through surrogacy. One parent could now claim maternity leave and pay, while the other could claim paternity leave and pay. 

2016: After a High Court decision ruled that the law was discriminatory to single parents who conceived through surrogacy, the government announced intentions to allow single parents (and same-sex couples) to become the legal parents of children who are born through surrogacy. 

Where do we go from here? 

While there has been significant progress in securing parenting rights for the LGBTQIA+ community in the UK, there is still a long way to go. What do we still need from our legislators?  

Recognition of Surrogacy Agreements 

Surrogacy agreements are still not recognized by UK law and it is illegal to advertise for a surrogate. Additionally, the surrogate and her husband are the legal parents of a child when they are born. The court process to transfer parenthood can last up to a year. Organizations such as Brilliant Beginnings have been advocating for surrogacy law reform since 2007.   The current laws governing surrogacy have not been reviewed since the 1980s. The good news? There is growing agreement for modernization of these laws. Although it has been a long struggle, the future for LGBTQIA+ parenting in the UK looks bright.

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