Sexual Orientation

Woman and man embracing

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Everyone has a sexual orientation. According to Stonewall, sexual orientation is a combination of emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to another person. In other words, it's about who you are attracted to, fall in love with and want to live your life with.

Definitions of different types of sexual orientation can be found on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) website.

Scottish Government Evidence Reviews

The Scottish Government have published a series of Equality Evidence Reviews, to inform the development of the public sector equality outcomes. The reviews explore available evidence about the scale and severity of issues faced by people with protected characteristics. View the review covering Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.


We do not know exactly how many Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people live in Scotland. The most up-to-date statistical information is available from the ScotPHO website and the Scottish Government Evidence Finder.


The Christie Commission Report, the NHS Healthcare Quality Strategy, and Equally Well are all policies relevant to reducing health inequalities. For further information, visit our policy page.

The NHS must not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and all NHS Health Boards have a duty to publish equality outcomes to advance equality for people with all protected characteristics.


The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010 and provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. There are nine ‘protected characteristics’ under the Act, including sexual orientation.

The new public sector equality duty in the Act came into force in April 2011. The duty places an obligation on public authorities to take action to eradicate discrimination, proactively promote equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations across relevant protected characteristics.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 came into effect in December 2014. Various pieces of law set out who is a person's 'nearest relative' and who is able to make decisions on behalf of someone if they are unable to do so themselves. Health services might state that they will only provide information to next of kin, for example about a patient’s condition. Therefore spouses or civil partners should be treated as a partner’s nearest relative. They are included in legislation which provides for decisions to be made on behalf of another person.

For more information, visit our Marriage and civil partnership page.

Updated May 2015

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