Polls open in UK General Election

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The polls have opened across the UK, as the country votes to elect a new government.

Polling stations opened at 7 AM across the country’s 650 constituencies, and will remain open until 10 PM this evening.

Counting will begin after the polls close this evening – with the results from the majority of constituencies expected by early Friday morning.

Opinion polls suggest that no party will claim an overall majority, with David Cameron’s Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s Labour neck-and-neck, heading towards a hung Parliament.

The Scottish National Party is expected to make landslide gains in Scotland, sweeping up most of the country’s seats, while the Lib Dems are projected to lose at least half their MPs. The UK Independence Party, which has a poor record on LGBT rights, is expected to sweep up votes – but may not be able to convert it to seats.

All the main parties include pledges on LGBT rights in their manifesto, with a number of different pledges.

The Conservative Party manifesto outlines a pledge for new legislation to pardon men convicted under the laws who are deceased – which Labour and the Lib Dems also back.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has pledged to statutory introduce inclusive sex and relationship education, review gender recognition laws and review the procedures for LGBT asylum seekers, amid criticism of the often-degrading and unbalanced ‘tests’ that gay asylum seekers are subjected to.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems plan to toughen hate crime laws, pledging to bring forward new legislation to tackle homophobia in schools and at football matches.

Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party is the only one of the main UK-wide parties to have pledged an anti-LGBT policy, with the party’s Christian Manifesto – which was not released to the press – calling for a ‘conscience’ law to weaken equality legislation, and accommodate the beliefs of people who oppose gay rights.

A number of allies of equality, including Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, who introduced same-sex marriage, and out Tory Vice Chair Mike Freer, are fighting close-run battles to retain their seats. A PinkNews editorial this week urged people to favour local candidates who supported equality.

In a recent poll, 85% of PinkNews readers said that they would vote against a candidate who didn’t support same-sex marriage – which could prove decisive in seats held by some Conservatives with small majorities, such as Bob Blackman and Matthew Offord.