Activists from gay, black, disabled, elderly and religious groups gathered in City Hall to discuss the Discrimination Law Review which will set out the manifesto for the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) and will form the Single Equality Act.
Alan Wardle, Public and Parliamentary Affairs spokesman for gay charity Stonewall, joined a panel headed by Lee Jasper, Director of Equalities at the London Mayor’s Office, which included representatives from the Muslim Council of Britain, trade unions, lesbian MP Angela Eagle and the Disability Rights Commission.
Launching the debate, Mr Jasper said: “We must not condemn future generations to discrimination.”
Labour MP, Angela Eagle, backed the pioneering tone of the event, she said: “This is a chance to transform society.”
She described the current law as too complex and called for a “radical” and “enforceable” structure, but she warned, “We cannot leave it to civil servants, big issues will go to the least radical if they think they can get away from it.
She called the review a “once in a lifetime chance.”
Her commitment was welcomed by Mr Wardle, he said: “It is vital that there is strong political narrative.”
He reiterated the importance of limiting exemptions in the new law and called for the legislation to protect gays and lesbians in public bodies, he said: “Otherwise you are allowing these organisations, often using public money, to escape obligations in diversity and inclusion.”
Representing black lobby group, The 1990 Trust, Karen Chouhan, called on all communities to have an input in the review, labelling it as “the biggest shake up “
The CEHR will provide protections for minority groups such as the gay community, underlined by the new Equality Act. The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which guarantee equality in the provision of goods and services to the gay community, due next April, will also form part of that.