Feature: The top 17 stories that changed LGBT life in the UK in 2013

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

As 2013 draws to a close, PinkNews looks back at the stories which have had the biggest impact on the life of LGBT people in the UK in the last year (and some which just raised a lot of eyebrows).

While we cannot claim a thoroughly scientific approach to the rankings, the stories are selected through a combination of how widely read they were, how much debate they provoked, and our own editorial judgement as to the effect they will have on LGBT life.

We already brought you thirteen stories which meant 2013 was the biggest year for coming out so far, so now in no particular order, we bring you another seventeen we have chosen as the top UK stories.

Equal marriage is legalised in England and Wales


Of course the first, and one of the most important things to happen in 2013 was when equal marriage was legalised in England and Wales.

The Queen’s Royal Assent was granted to the bill on Wednesday 17 July at 15:06, turning it into the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, after clearing the final stage in Parliament on the 16th, following hours of debate.

In case you missed it, why not check out the seven amusing and shocking things we learned during the equal marriage debate? We also have a handy guide of nine things you might want to know about the new equal marriage law.

Scotland is also well on its way to having its own equal marriage legislation as the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill passed in the Scottish Parliament last month with a large majority.

Queen Pardons Alan Turing

Feature: The top 17 stories that changed LGBT life in the UK in 2013
After years of campaigning by politicians, celebrities and others, The Queen granted a Royal Pardon to the World War II hero Alan Turing on Christmas Eve.

Turing was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952, after having a relationship with another man. The mathematical genius and codebreaker was the effective inventor of the modern computer and a key driver behind the victory over the Nazis.

He killed himself in 1954, two years after being sentenced to chemical castration for his homosexuality.

Earlier in the year, the House of Lords passed a private members bill to pardon Turing, which secured Government support. The bill stalled in the House of Commons, prompting the executive action that led to the Royal Pardon.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns as leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland


Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.

In March, O’Brien admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him. A Vatican inquiry concluded in April – and no further action against Cardinal O’Brien was taken.

Cardinal O’Brien announced his departure from Scotland as part of a period of “spiritual renewal” in May.

In 2012, he stated that same-sex relationships were “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse.

The BBC faced immense pressure to change its guidelines after disciplining Graham Norton for wearing a World AIDS Day ribbon


The BBC declined change its rules following criticism of its decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show.

The broadcaster and comedian ignored instructions not to wear the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day (WAD) on 1 December.

The BBC refused to answer various questions put forward by PinkNews on why it makes exceptions to allow red noses for Red Nose Day, exceptions for Children in Need, Sports Relief, ‘Movember’ and Save the Children’s ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’, despite assertions that only poppies are allowed.

Tom Daley comes out


In a five-minute YouTube video, the British diving bronze medallist, and star of ITV’s Splash, revealed that he had been in a relationship with a man since Spring 2013.

Notably, he specifically chose not to use a label to describe his sexuality, but said it was “love at first sight”, when he met his boyfriend.

Daley has been hailed by many including Lady Gaga and Clare Balding (among many others), and has been accepted by his grandparents for the announcement. He was also immortalised in Russian doll form, alongside Sir Elton John, Graham Norton, George Michael and Stephen Fry, in a charity auction.

Paris Lees makes history as BBC Question Time’s first out trans panellist and tops the Pink List


History was made on BBC One tonight when Paris Lees became the first out transgender panellist to appear on Question Time.

She was on the panel alongside Labour MP Chris Bryant, Conservative MP Matthew Hancock, Liberal Democrat MP Jeremy Browne and the author Harriet Sergeant, and received praise from across the political divide after becoming the first out transgender panellist to appear on Question Time.

In October, Paris Lees topped this year’s Independent on Sunday Pink List.

Jeremy Irons suggests same-sex marriage could lead to fathers marrying their sons for tax purposes


Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons said equal marriage could lead to fathers marrying their sons.

Although the 64-year-old stressed he “doesn’t have a strong feeling either way” on the issue of marriage equality, the actor suggested that equal marriage legislation in the UK could be manipulated to allow fathers to pass on their estates to their sons without being taxed.

He later responded to the outrage over his claims, but maintained that his concerns were “valid”, adding that he is not anti-gay. Hm… okay then.

Tesco sells (and then apologises for) inflatable ‘Gay Best Friend’ doll


A day after Tesco was forced to withdraw two Halloween outfits after they were criticised for stigmatising people with mental health issues – PinkNews learned the retail giant was selling an inflatable “Gay Best Friend” doll.

The retail giant later apologised for the oversight.

Following the lead of Toys ‘R’ Us, TK Maxx, Debenhams and Boots, M&S just last week announced that as of 2014, it will make all of its toys gender neutral. Perhaps lessons have been learnt in 2013 by the retail sector after all.

James Arthur offends pretty much everyone with homophobic lyrics in a rap diss


X Factor winner Arthur late in November left Twitter following criticism for using homophobic language against another artist in a “rap feud”. He handed over control of his Twitter account to managers.

In Arthur’s rap at Micky Worthless, he said: “You f***ing queer. Hilarious, precarious you Talibani confused, imbellic mimic of a gimmick.” He was criticised by comedians Matt Lucas and Frankie Boyle, fellow X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan for the lyrics.

Previously it emerged that a petition to have Arthur removed from a performance on the X Factor this Sunday, which has now gathered over 11,000 signatures.

Nicole Scherzinger and Olly Murs defended the singer, but iTunes saw the lyrics as a valid reason to refund a customer who was offended by the lyrics.

Arthur later said he felt “deep shame” for the lyrics in an apology which some said was too defensive. Oops.

An 8-year-old wrote to the Welsh Secretary to say she has been brought up ‘perfectly well’ by lesbians


Elizabeth was responding to a Valentines day interview during which Welsh Secretary David Jones spoke about why he voted against equal marriage.

She wrote:

Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing to inform you that I don’t agree that children shouldn’t be brought up by lesbian or gay people. My name is Elizabeth and I am a child with lesbian parents. I have got a little sister called Pippa for short and I have got two mums, one is called Kate and the other is called Alison. I have been brought up perfectly well so I don’t see any point in you saying that. Me and some of my other friends agree that you can be brought up by anyone who will love you and care for you and make sure your [sic] happy. Please write back!



Elizabeth for PM!

Straight Pride UK claimed ‘it’s not easy to be straight’ because straight people are ‘persecuted’


The group named Straight Pride UK, which claims to aim for “full straight equality” (between the lines – anti-gay) has taken to twitter to claim that straight people are “persecuted every day”, and that it is “not easy to be straight”.

The group’s website and Twitter account were closed down after the company which owns blogging platform WordPress.org filed a lawsuit against Straight Pride UK, alleging that the group abused copyright laws. What a shame.

Study shows that 1 in 4 Londoners have had, or would have, gay sex


The London Sex Survey was released by Time Out London, and almost a quarter of men said they’d had, or would have a same-sex sexual encounter, and more than half of women said the same.

According to the survey, 60% of female respondents said they had had, or would have a same-sex sexual experience, and 23% of men said the same.

It also detailed in which London boroughs people were having the most same-sex encounters. Then we all moved to the borough of Havering, where 50% of respondents said they had in the past had a same-sex experience.

Dame Helen Mirren dressed as the Queen tells gay festival drummers to ‘shut the f**k up’


Dressed as the Queen, Dame Helen Mirren told 200 drummers promoting a gay festival to “shut the f*ck up” after they disturbed a performance of ‘The Audience’.

Dame Helen, who played Queen Elizabeth II in the production stormed out of the Gielgud Theatre and in no uncertain terms, told the drummers to quiet down.

She clearly then put the debacle behind her, as she was spotted with husband Taylor Hackford at As One in the Park, which took place in Victoria Park.

Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker comes out during equal marriage debate


Liberal Democrat peer Liz Barker came out in a moving speech during the equal marriage debate in the House of Lords this summer. She was among the first to speak and said she had to “declare an interest”.

“Many years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet someone,” she said. “She and I have loved each other ever since.”

She went on to say it was a “great relief” to read the letter by the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli, in which he argued “Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly”.

Baroness Knight makes ridiculously stereotyped and offensive remarks about gay people in House of Lords


Unfortunately the other side to Baroness Barker’s lovely coming out coin is that of Tory peer Baroness Jill Knight, (the introducer of Section 28,) who, during the second reading of the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, compared being gay to being blind, said that gay people were “delightful, very artistic”, and said the bill was “built on lies”. Lovely.

Guardian columnists Suzanne Moore and Julie Birchill dig themselves into controversy, then apologise, after accusations of transphobia


Moore was severely criticised for suggesting women were expected to look like “Brazilian transsexuals” in an article published first in the New Statesman and then in the Guardian.

Many considered the term to be offensive – not least because Brazil has an appalling record on transphobic hate crime.

Moore then proceeded to use several transphobic slurs in Twitter conversations and then appeared to close her account on the microblogging site.

Meanwhile, Guardian columnist Julie Burchill faced calls to be sacked for writing a highly transphobic article in defence of her friend Moore, in the Observer.

BBC Radio callers say that being gay should be illegal and gays should be sectioned


Callers into a BBC Ulster programme were asked to comment on Stormont’s failure to move towards equal marriage for same sex couples, with some callers, and a Presbytarian Reverend featured on the show, saying that being gay should be made illegal.

From the PinkNews team, we wish all of our readers a happy 2014. More features looking back on the year will follow before the end of this year.