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Same-sex couples: The impact of legislative changes

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Researchers: Martin Mitchell
Published: June 2009

Aim

We looked into the impacts of a series of major legislative changes for same-sex couples.  Changes such as the Civil Partnership Act (2004), the Employment Equality (sexual orientation) Regulations (2003) and the Adoption and Children Act (2002) created a new socio-legal environment for same-sex or lesbian and gay couples.

Findings

We found that same-sex couples believed the new employment and adoption legislation gave them new rights and protection from discrimination:

  • The Civil Partnership Act had a positive impact on the lives of same-sex couples who had chosen to register as civil partners and some positive knock-on effects for same-sex couples who did not want to be civil partners.
  • The Adoption and Children Act is likely to increase the pool of prospective adoptive same-sex parents, but professionals working in the field need to improve their understanding of same-sex relationships and families.
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations was welcome for offering greater protection from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. However, employers need to do more to promote these regulations.
  • Generally, it was felt that the legislation had increased the sense of belonging and legitimacy in society, security and stability. Further, that it had reinforced the message that same-sex relationships were a ‘normal’ part of everyday life and that homophobia and discrimination were unacceptable.
  • However, some felt that civil partnerships perpetuated inequality because they are different to marriage, that drawing attention to same-sex couples and LGB employees provide people with an opportunity to express the prejudices and that a wider cultural shift in attitude is needed to go alongside legislative changes.

Method

We conducted 47 in-depth qualitative interviews with members of same-sex couples who had been in their relationship for at least two years.

Participants were recruited by a variety of means, including via Registars, and purposively selected to ensure a diverse sample. The data was comprehensively and systematically analysed with the aid of Framework.

Read the report