Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the government to harmonise all discrimination and equality laws into one piece of equal rights legislation.
Criticising the “differential levels of protection against discrimination available to different minority groups,” Mr Tatchell wants to see the unification of all equal rights legislation in a single Equal Rights Act, based on the current race equality laws.
“We need to raise the level of legal redress for discrimination based on sexual orientation, transgenderism, age, belief, gender and disability to the same high standard that already exists for discrimination based on race,” he told PinkNews.co.uk.
“Instead of the existing diverse, separate, piecemeal equality laws, it is time we tackled all forms of discrimination in a uniform, coherent way,” he said.
Last year the government pressed ahead with plans to combine the CRE with other public bodies such as the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission in the face of opposition from race and disability campaigners.
The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights will come into operation in October this year. Its remit will cover LGBT rights, the first time that gay and lesbian people have had that specific protection.
The Commission will advise employers and service providers on good practice and the promotion of equality, conduct inquiries and carry out investigations, provide advice and information on rights and equality laws.
They will also have a campaigning role on issues affecting the diverse groups in society that can suffer discrimination and make arrangements for conciliation to assist with disputes.
“Without universal equality legislation, the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights is bound to be split by divisions and resentments, which will impair its effectiveness,” said Mr Tatchell.
Stonewall expressed concern about the appointment of current CRE head Trevor Phillips to chair the new ‘super-commission’ for human rights and equality.
Last year Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who has previously accused Mr Phillips of being too right wing and publicity hungry, told LBC Radio: “If Trevor Phillips wasn’t black, he couldn’t have done what he’s done.
“If a white man had been put into the CRE with the job of winding it down, there would have been uproar and they wouldn’t have got away with it.
“I was opposed to winding it up. This idea that we’re going to have disabled people, lesbians and gays, women and blacks all in one human rights commission, I think, is rubbish.”
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill has been appointed as a equality commissioner last December and will provide guidance to the new body regarding his experience of campaigning for LGBT rights.