The last decade has borne witness to an unprecedented level of change in the legal regulation of lesbian and gay lives across the Western world. In the UK in 1999, the age of consent for sex between men was 18; Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 prevented local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’; lesbians and gay men were banned from serving in the military, and were routinely discharged from the armed forces if their sexual orientation was discovered. Alongside these legal restrictions, there was a distinct lack of legal recognition of lesbians and gay men and, in particular, of the everyday familial relationships between same-sex couples and their children. In 2010, lesbians and gay men in the UK are no longer subjected to many of these legal detriments. Anti-gay laws have been repealed, and replaced with legal protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and legal recognition for lesbian and gay families. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 created a system of recognition for same-sex relationships that is almost identical to marriage, recent reforms to adoption law now allow same-sex couples to adopt children together, and the same-sex partner of a woman who gives birth can now be named on any resulting child’s birth certificate and can have the legal status of ‘parent’. Yet it would be wrong to surmise that these legislative changes necessarily remove any discrimination from the everyday lives of lesbians and gay men. Elsewhere in the world, some of the gains for lesbians and gay men have been mirrored by increased backlash against same-sex relationships and families. For example, while some US states have granted same-sex couples access to marriage, many more have legislated to remove the possibility of legal recognition for lesbian and gay relationships. These legal developments combine to create a new, uncharted terrain for

lesbians and gay men. This book seeks to explore the effects of this recent seismic shift in the legal landscape for lesbians and gay men and examines the consequences of such dramatic legal change on the everyday lives of lesbians and gay men. The primary focus of this book is to explore lesbians’ and gay men’s experiences of, attitudes to and views about the interlinked reforms to the legal context of lesbian and gay familial lives. The different approaches to the recognition and regulation of lesbian and gay families in the UK,

Canada and the US provide fertile ground for exploring and understanding how different legal and social contexts impact on the ways lesbians and gay men approach, understand and consider the place of law in their everyday lives. I have three main reasons for foregrounding familial lives in this book: first, lesbian and gay relationship recognition and parenting rights are, to greater or lesser extents, the current focus of lesbian and gay activism within the UK (and in a number of other countries worldwide). Second, parenting and relationships seem more relevant to the everyday lives of lesbians and gay men in the early twenty-first century West than, for example, sexual offences legislation. A third reason for my focus on familial relationships is that it is not necessary to construct lesbians and gay men as ‘victims’, as may be necessary with an exploration of, for example, discrimination or hate crimes. This book is concerned, predominantly, with the legal situation of lesbians

and gay men. While it has become common to include bisexual and trans people within academic commentary relating to sexual minority rights, I have chosen not to do so in this book for two key reasons. First, the empirical foci of my study (relationship recognition and parenting) give rise to different issues for bisexual people (see e.g. Aviram, 2008; Klesse, 2006) and for transsexual and transgender individuals (see e.g. Coombs, 2001; Whittle, 2002) than they do for lesbians and gay men. While it would have been interesting to be able to compare these perspectives within this research, it is beyond the scope of this book to do justice to the different perspectives that bisexuality and trans issues bring to these areas. Second, as well as being concerned with sexuality, throughout this book I examine places where there are (and are not) gendered differences in attitudes to and perceptions of law and legal process. As such, a focus on the similarities and differences between lesbians’ and gay men’s views allows these gendered differences to come to the fore.