UK Equality Bill excludes gay rights

Public bodies exempted from duty to tackle homophobia
Gays excluded from ban on discrimination in goods and services
Hotels and restaurants remain free to turn away lesbians and gays
Blair vetoed the inclusion of gay rights to appease Muslim homophobes

March 31, 2005

Tony Blair
LONDON — Protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been excluded from five key provisions of the government's new Equality Bill.

Gay people have been denied protection under the Bill's clauses governing housing, education, harassment, goods and services and the legal duties of public bodies.

Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage! has condemned the legislation as the 'Inequality Bill', arguing it is 'divisive and discriminatory'.

'Five key clauses protect religious minorities, but not sexual minorities. People of faith get protection; gay people get nothing. That is homophobic bias,' said Mr Tatchell.

The Bill is now scheduled for its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

'It is institutional homophobia,' said OutRage! campaign coordinator Brett Lock.

'Although clause 48 bans discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of religion, it does not prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

'This means that discrimination against gay people by hotels, restaurants, bars and insurance companies will remain lawful by default.

'The government has failed to explain why it is excluding gays and lesbians from this extension of the anti-discrimination laws.

'The Equality Bill is the perfect opportunity to remedy the lack of legal protection for gay people.

'According to The Times political correspondent, David Cracknell, senior Labour sources told him the Prime Minister's office vetoed the inclusion of gay rights alongside rights for religious minorities. The government feared an anti-Labour backlash from the Muslim community if protection for Muslims was legislated together with protection for gay people.

'Labour appears to be pandering to homophobic Muslims by excluding gay rights. It smacks of electoral opportunism.

'Following the case of the Scottish hotelier who refused to accept a booking by a gay couple last year, the government previously promised to outlaw such discrimination. Now Labour has reneged on its pledge; leaving lesbians and gays without any legal protection or redress.

'The government is now promising is gay-inclusive legislation at some indefinite period in the future. It will be at least another four years before this legislation is on the statute book. In the meantime, thousands of lesbians and gay men will continue to suffer discrimination and have no remedy in law.

'Clause 47 of the Equality Bill prohibits harassment of a person because of their religious belief. No similar protection against harassment is offered by this bill to people because of their sexuality. The victimisation of gay people by homophobic neighbours from hell, for example, is not addressed by this bill's tough new penalties for harassment.

'Clauses 49 and 51 ban discrimination against religious minorities in housing and education. Discrimination in these fields against gay people is not outlawed. As a result, a landlord can refuse to let a flat to a same-sex couple or can evict a gay tenant. A faith school is legally entitled to exclude a gay pupil and to promote homophobic attitudes towards homosexual people.

'Under clauses 81 and 82 of the Equality Bill, all public authorities will be required to promote equal opportunities for women, in the same way they are already required to combat race discrimination against ethnic minorities.

'But the Bill places no duty on public authorities to promote equality for lesbians and gay men.

'Public bodies, such as local councils and government departments, will remain free to take no action to protect the gay community from discrimination, harassment and violence.

'While action to combat race and gender discrimination will be a legal requirement for all public bodies, action against homophobia will remain a mere option. Why the double standards?

'Labour is creating a hierarchy of oppression, where women and black people are deemed more worthy of protection than lesbians and gay men.

'This is the latest example of nine instances where Tony Blair's government is currently blocking measures for queer equality. Yet again Labour is treating us as second class citizens'.

Click here for a list of the nine examples of British government homophobic

'We urge gay people to lobby their MPs and the so-called Equalities Minister, Jacqui Smith, to remedy this discrimination.

'In the forthcoming general election don't vote for parties that back homophobic discrimination. Support parties that support lesbian and gay human rights', said Mr Lock.

Note: The existing statutory requirement for public bodies to promote race equality was legislated in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

The British government has three times since 2000 rejected legislative proposals by OutRage! to extend the equality laws to 'tackle discrimination against gay people and all other disadvantaged and vulnerable minorities'. – OutRage!

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