This blog was contributed by Antony Smith, Development Officer (Equalities and Human Rights) at Age UK.
We achieved another significant milestone for equality over the summer, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent. It means that, for the first time, every lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) person in this country will enjoy full equality in law.
It can be hard to express how much joy this historic step will bring to the older LGB members of our community in particular, given the isolation, exclusion and discrimination many of them have experienced throughout their lives – from imprisonment and incarceration to losing job, home and family – simply for being lesbian, gay or bisexual. And, of course, we must never forget that it is thanks to the older members of our community, the original campaigners for social justice, that the UK now enjoys the best legal human rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual (and transgender) people in Europe, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Age UK was among many organisations that supported the call for equal marriage, as part of our commitment to ensuring all older people enjoy equal rights, are treated with dignity and respect and have access to services that are affirming and appropriate. So we warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement of 18 July that followed the introduction of the new law:
“The UK is rated as the best place in Europe for LGBT equality – but we cannot be complacent. There are subjects we must continue to tackle: not least taking a zero-tolerance approach to homophobic bullying, and caring for elderly members of the LGBT community. Rest assured, this Government will work tirelessly to make sure this happens.”
LGBT inclusion is an area of key concern for Age UK, from our information resources to local support groups, but to echo the words of David Cameron, indeed we cannot be complacent. With three in five older LGB people surveyed by Stonewall still expressing fear of prejudice from social care providers, influencing hearts, minds and attitudes remains every bit as important as changing the law. So we are delighted to receive such a resounding acknowledgement of the needs of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from this government, and urge our blog readers to get in touch if they would like to discuss how they too can take steps to ensure their services are as LGBT inclusive, affirming and welcoming as they possibly can be.