Case study

Law and sexual orientation equality

Our groundbreaking research has directly resulted in changes to laws that relate to sexual orientation equality throughout Europe and the UK.

A road with a large pride flg being carried by people.

The issue

For centuries law has provided means to ensure the systemic oppression of non-heterosexual people.

In recent times and in certain jurisdictions, law has also become a key mechanism for challenging discrimination and establishing equality on the grounds of sexual orientation. For these reasons, it is therefore important for lesbian, gay and bisexual people around the world to engage with, understand and use law as a means of addressing and eradicating homophobia.

The research

Professor Paul Johnson carried out extensive research on the relationship between sexual orientation equality and law in the United Kingdom, Europe and around the world.

In his latest book, Going to Strasbourg: An Oral History of Sexual Orientation Discrimination and the European Convention on Human RightsProfessor Johnson explores the experiences of gay men and lesbians who have utilised the European Convention on Human Rights to address sexual orientation discrimination.

In a number of subsequent journal articles and reports he went on to propose ways in which law could be better utilised to challenge forms of sexual orientation discrimination.

The outcome

Landmark legal ruling

This research has since been taken up by parliament and judicial bodies, directly contributing to important legal changes that relate to sexual orientation equality.

Professor Johnson’s research is recognised as having led to the repeal of a British Law that meant homosexual behaviour could constitute grounds for discharge from the armed forces

The research also underpinned legislation enacted in 2017 that introduced a scheme in Northern Ireland to allow people previously convicted of "homosexual offences" to apply for a disregard and pardon.

The changes that have arisen from this research demonstrate how academic socio-legal work can lead to applied, real-life changes that improve societies and the lives of individuals.

I research law with the hope of changing it, of diminishing discrimination against people because of sexual orientation, and of creating a fairer world in which people are treated equally regardless of who they love.

Professor Paul Johnson
Principal Investigator

Additional information

Featured researcher
Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Head of the Department of Sociology

Professor Johnson is an expert in law and social control. His research is especially concerned with the relationship between law, human rights and sexual orientation as well as policing in a variety of jurisdictions.

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