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2022 marks the 25th Birthday of the Equality Network, Scotland’s LGBTI equality and human rights charity. Over the course of the year we will be marking our 25 years of fighting for equality with events and information about our work.

During LGBT History Month in February we’ll be highlighting some of the things we’ve been doing to make Scotland a better place for LGBTI people since 1997, on our social media channels. We hope you’ll find the posts interesting. We’ll be adding a new year every day.

The Equality Network 

The Scottish Parliament has responsibility for many of the areas of law and policy which affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It is vital that Scotland has effective voices working for change. The Equality Network was formed in January 1997 to be one of those voices.

Since then we have campaigned on a range of equality issues and scored some notable successes. This page outlines just a few of the developments since 1997.

We will continue to work for complete equality for all LGBTI people in Scotland including those who face prejudice on other grounds as well. Our current work includes ensuring that the voices of diverse LGBTI people are heard in policy making, supporting LGBT community groups to be heard, equal marriage law, equality in law for all trans people, and effective measures against hate crime, bullying, prejudice and discrimination.


It’s 1997 and Scotland is a very unequal place for LGBTI people. Decriminalisation of sex between men happened just 16 years before, in 1981, but the age of consent remains higher. There are no rights to marry or adopt, you can be fired from your job and people can refuse to serve you in a shop or café.

The UK Government introduce a new bill to set up the sex offenders register, but it discriminates against men convicted of sex with men. So a group of campaigners decide to set up a new organisation to fight to amend that law.

Its 1997, and the Equality Network was founded and we successfully amended the law.


On June 20th 1997 we held our first ‘Equality for All Conference’ at the City Chambers in Edinburgh with the support of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), The City of Edinburgh Council, Pride Scotland and Stonewall UK.

At the conference the different workshops discussed key topics including bisexual, transgender, youth, parenting, health and workplace issues. The conference also decided that going forward the Equality Network would be trans inclusive in all its work.

You can read an original report of the conference here.


In 1998 we successfully lobbied for amendments to the Scotland Act, to give the new Scottish Parliament powers to work for equal opportunities for LGBT people. We also worked with partners to ensure that equality was a key part of the core principles and working practices of the new Parliament.

On the 21st March 1998, together with UNISON we co-organised the first conference for police and the LGBT communities. The original report for this conference can be found here.

Throughout 1998 the age of consent campaign saw us working closely with UK-wide groups to ensure an equal age of consent for all. The age of consent was finally equalised across the United Kingdom in January 2001.


In April 1999, after our second ‘Equality for All Conference’, we published ‘Equality at Holyrood’, our detailed manifesto for LGBT equality under the Scottish Parliament.
The manifesto called for many things we take for granted today, remembering this was less than 20 years ago.
Amongst other things it called for civil marriage, gender recognition for trans people, adoption rights and what was to be our big focus over the following few years, the scrapping of Section 28. Take a look at the manifesto in full here.

In 1999 we forced the Bank of Scotland to cancel a proposed business deal with US far-right evangelist Pat Robertson. When the deal had been cancelled he told the media Scotland was “a dark country” overrun by homosexuals.


We started campaigning to repeal Section 28 in Scotland as soon as the Scottish Parliament was set up.
Over the course of 2000 the most homophobic campaign in Scottish history was unleashed. With the support of the mainstream media, Stagecoach owner Brian Souter spent £1million on a flawed postal vote and placed anti-gay adverts in billboards and newspapers across the country.
The ‘Keep the Clause’ campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and the Scottish Parliament voted by 99 to 17 in favour of repeal.
In 2000, as well as repealing Section 28, the Scottish Parliament recognised same-sex cohabiting couples in legislation for the first time. This was thanks to an amendment we promoted to the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act.
In 2001 an equal age of consent was finally achieved across the UK, laws which prevented two men from having sex with anyone else present were repealed, and the Scottish Executive published their first Equality Strategy, which included LGBT equality.

In 2002 we held a conference in Edinburgh to plan our campaign for civil partnerships. ‘We are Family’ took place in Edinburgh with the support of The City of Edinburgh CouncilScottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission Scotland.

The campaign was ultimately successful in 2004 with the Scottish Parliament passing a ‘sewel’ motion allowing Westminster to legislate. The first Civil Partnerships took place on December 20th 2005. You can read the BBC news report of the day here.

Also in 2002 we secured grant funding for our first paid staff, until this point our work and campaigns was being carried out by volunteers.

The Scottish Executive funded ‘Your Scotland’ project enabled lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to better participate in shaping law and policy.


In 2003 we published our second ‘Equality at Holyrood’ manifesto. Amongst other things we called on the Scottish Parliament to legislate on gender recognition for trans people, cohabitation and partnership rights for same-sex couples and adoption rights. A full copy of the manifesto can be read here.


We campaigned for a Gender Recognition Act which was passed at Westminster in 2004. We worked closely with the Scottish Executive on the Scottish aspects of the Act which was, at the time, a huge step forward for trans equality.

At the time the UK was one of only four countries in Europe which did not allow trans people to change legal documents to better reflect their gender.

At this time we also were deep into a 4 year campaign for civil partnerships, the Civil Partnership act was finally passed at Westminster, with the permission of the Scottish Parliament, in late 2004. We worked extensively on the Scots law aspects of the Act.


2005 was a big year for LGBTI families. After 6 years of campaigning we worked to achieve an equalisation in the law between same-sex and mixed-sex cohabiting couples.

The law was equalised by the The Family Law (Scotland) Act which was passed in early 2006.

We later produced ‘Shacked Up’ a guide for same-sex couples living together in Scotland.

With the passing of the Civil Partnerships Act same-sex couples had relationships legally recognised for the first time. Ceremonies took place from Dec 2005. 


2006 was another year of progress for LGBTI equality with the successful campaign for adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill was approved in the Scottish Parliament by 101 votes to 6, with 6 abstentions.

Then in our 10th year and with rapid progress toward legislative equality in some areas we held our 9th annual conference at the Arches in Glasgow. Brave New World was held in Glasgow on Saturday 20th May 2006    – You can see the original conference flyer here.


The Equality Network decided when it began in 1997 that it would be a trans inclusive organisation. In 2007 our work on trans issues received a significant boost when we won funding for the Scottish Trans Alliance.

It was the first time a trans rights project had been funded by any national government in Europe.

Today Scottish Trans Alliance have three staff. As well as providing detailed knowledge, training and guidance on trans issues we’re spearheading the campaign for Gender Recognition reform in Scotland.

Also in 2007 we published our third manifesto. It called for a new hate crime law and same-sex marriage, amongst other things. You can read the manifesto here.


In 2008 we secured funding for EveryoneIN. It became the first Scottish based project to focus on the inclusion of minority ethnic LGBT people.

Since then we’ve published groundbreaking research, delivered training and continued to engage minority ethnic communities in our work.

Also in 2008, we set up our Equal Marriage campaign. it was the first major campaign for same-sex marriage in the UK.


In 2009 after a campaign spanning a number of years Scotland passed a new hate crime law. It was the first legislation in Europe to explicitly cover transphobic as well as homophobic hate crime.


There are LGBTI people in every part of Scotland. That’s why we’ve always ensured we’re not just a ‘central-belt organisation’. Since our founding we’ve held our events across the country and worked with LGBTI people from Stranraer to Shetland.

In 2010 we held events across the highlands and islands to create new LGBT groups. Helping to reduce social isolation and build stronger LGBT networks in rural and island Scotland. Many of the groups are still going today – you can find a group in your area on our website.

In 2010 the Equality Act became law, it included new obligations to consult with LGBT communities. The Act brought together 116 individual pieces of discrimination legislation into one law. We consulted widely to get the Scottish parts of the law right and to ensure the widest possible definitions.


In 2011 we published the groundbreaking research report ‘Safety, Sanctuary and Solidarity’. It was the first Scottish based research into LGBT asylum and refugee issues. You can read the report here

We later followed up the research by publishing guidance for Scottish services working with LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees. You can read the guidance here.


In 2012 we undertook and published the first major research into homophobia and transphobia in Scottish Sport.

We launched the report at the home of Scottish Rugby Murrayfield.

Key findings included:

Only 5% thought enough was being done to tackle homophobia and transphobia in sport.

62% had experienced or witnessed homophobia or transphobia when taking part in sport.

57% of LGBT people said they were more likely to participate in sport were it more LGBT friendly. 

You can read more about our work on LGBTI inclusive sport here.