Legal and policy issues in the UK

Stott, A. (2009) Adoption Register Overview: Experience of the Adoption Register regarding lesbian and gay adopters. Sharing Evidence, Overcoming Resistance – Celebrating the Role of Lesbian and Gay Carers, BAAF Conference 11th May 2009: London.

Brown, H.C., and Kershaw, S. (2008) The Legal Context for Social Work with Lesbians and Gay Men in the UK: Updating the Educational Context, Social Work Education 27(2), 122-130.

Abstract: This article considers some of the social, legal and political changes that have taken place in the UK over recent years to elevate the inequality and discrimination faced by lesbians and gay men and how these changes have affected social work practice. In doing this the paper highlights some of the debates from verbatim reports of proceedings in both houses of parliament that pre-empted the passing of the legislation. These debates indicate the prejudicial attitudes of some members and show their opposition to lesbians and gay men having the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The paper then introduces the Equality Act 2006 and the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007, which make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. The paper considers various amendments that the introduction of equality legislation makes to other pieces of legislation before going on to discuss the impact the legislation will have on the way in which goods, facilities and services will be delivered. The paper concludes that changing the law might be one thing, but changing people’s attitudes is another. This conclusion has particular implications for social work education and practice.

Logan, J. and Sellick, C. (2007) Lesbian and Gay Fostering and Adoption in the United Kingdom: Prejudice, Progress and the Challenges of the Present, Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 13(2), 35-47.

Fish, J. (2007) Getting equal: The implications of new regulations to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination for health and Social Care, Diversity in Health and Social Care 4(3), 221-228.

Abstract: The early 21st century has seen a culture shift in the legislative landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, giving them access to new rights and responsibilities: they have the right to have their relationships recognised in law by the Civil Partnership Act 2004; the promotion of homosexuality, by local authorities, is no longer illegal (Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act was repealed in 2003); and transgender people must be treated in their new sex by health and social care professionals (Gender Recognition Act 2004). Recently, new regulations (The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007) have been introduced which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, including health and social care. This article outlines these changes and provides an overview of the context in which they have arisen. Hitherto, heteronormative assumptions of welfare have shaped LGB people’s experiences of health and social care. Ideas about what constitutes a family have meant that same-sex couples were not deemed to provide a suitable environment in which to bring up children: provisions in the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act and guidance on placing children in foster placements were influenced by these assumptions. Notions about privacy, which framed many of the laws pertaining to sexual orientation, have meant that LGB people have been invisible users of health and social care. The article goes on to analyse research about user perspectives in health and social care, and then considers current developments, in the NHS and elsewhere, which aim to address the needs identified. In conclusion, the article considers the implications of these changes for conceptions of welfare and for the delivery of health and social care.

Hitchings, E. and Sagar, T. (2007) The Adoption and Children Act: a level playing field for same-sex adopters? Child and Family Law Quarterly 19(1): 60-77

Hicks, S. (2005) Lesbian and gay foster care and adoption: a brief UK history, Adoption & Fostering 29(3): 42–56.

Abstract: Stephen Hicks presents a history of foster care and adoption by lesbians and gay men in the UK since 1988. He reviews key research, policy, law and debates about lesbian and gay carers and discusses key changes and developments in this field of practice. The article discusses a number of common arguments that surface in debates about this topic, including the idea that the children of lesbians and gay men will suffer psychosocial damage or develop problematic gender and sexual identity. In addition, the author critiques the notion that children do best in ‘natural’ two-parent, heterosexual families and that lesbian or gay carers should not be considered or should be used only as a ‘last resort’. Although the number of approved lesbian and gay carers has been increasing and there has been a range of positive changes in this field, it is argued that a series of homophobic ideas remain a key feature of this debate. The article asks how much things have changed since 1988 and what social work can do to contribute to an anti-homophobic practice.

Dey, I. (2005) Adapting Adoption: a case of closet politics? International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 19(3): 289-309.

Author’s abstract: The Adoption and Children Act 2002 addressed problems of delay in the adoption process, particularly with regard to children looked after in the care system. This article reviews the background to the Act and considers critically its emphasis on administrative reform. While the problem of delay was addressed mainly in administrative terms, the issue could not be entirely separated from political debate. In the lead-up to the Act political controversy centred on racial matching; during its passage, it focused on the legalization of same-sex adoption. The Government effectively diffused opposition on both counts through its emphasis on pragmatic reform to promote the welfare of the child. The article characterizes this approach as ‘closet politics’ and suggests that such pragmatism may exact a price in terms of implementation. The failure to address or resolve underlying issues of principle may mean that legislative change has only a limited effect on professional practice and public prejudice.

Hicks, S. (2003) The Christian Right and Homophobic Discourse: a Response to ‘Evidence’ that Lesbian and Gay Parenting Damages Children. Sociological Research Online 8(4)


Abstract: This ‘rapid response’ piece, submitted under the ‘Sexuality and the Church’ theme, examines claims by Christian writers that lesbian and gay parenting is bad for children. The author analyses aspects of what he terms a ‘Christian homophobic discourse’ in order to demonstrate the problematic claim to neutrality made by these writers. In addition, the author shows how the Christian writers’ view of research rests upon a series of positivist assumptions. Claims that research evidence shows children of lesbian or gay parents demonstrate gender or sexual identity confusion are disputed, and the author argues that the Christian writers present their own moral interpretations rather than the ‘facts of the matter’. The author argues that the Christian writers construct a version of homosexuality as highly diseased and dangerous, before concluding that it is both epistemologically and morally misguided to see ‘sexuality’ as an object or variable which influences the development of children.

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