The new Equality Bill published today includes proposals for all public bodies to promote equality for gay and lesbian people.
The bill is intended to be an extension of the current duty on public authorities to actively promote equality into services like fostering, magistrates courts and health clinics, to make their services more accessible to lesbian, bisexual and gay people.
“The first equality laws were brought in by a Labour Government more than 40 years ago,” Harriet Harman, Secretary of State for Equality, told the House of Commons today.
“Progress has been made to outlaw discrimination against people if they are black, a woman, lesbian or gay, disabled, or if they are older, but although such progress has been made, inequality and discrimination still persist.
“Men who work full time still earn 40 per cent more per hour than women who work part time.
“Although more disabled people are working than ever before, a disabled person is still two and a half times more likely to be out of work.
“If someone is black or Asian, they are less likely to be in work and if they are in work, they are more likely to be earning below the level of their qualifications.
“Homophobic bullying still blights the lives of most lesbian or gay young people, and it is still perfectly lawful to tell someone, “Sorry, you’re too old,” and refuse anything from health care to insurance.
“The Bill and package of measures that I will outline to the House today represent a radical shift in our approach to fighting unfairness, and will breathe fresh life into our equality agenda.
“Our package of measures includes the equality Bill we promised in our last manifesto, secondary legislation and action by the new Equality And Human Rights Commission.
“We expect everyone—the public sector, firms which do business with the public sector and companies in the private sector—to play their part.”
The Equality BIll will be formally announced in the Queen’s Speech in December but it is a complex piece of legislation and may not be on the statute books before 2010.
Currently, pieces of legislation like the Sexual Orientation Regulations covering goods and services do attempt to wipe out discrimination, however there is currently no bill that requires the promotion of equality for lesbian, bisexual and gay people.
As a result, many of them may not get the best out of public services.
A recent report published by gay equality organisation Stonewall, Serves You Right, showed that lesbian and gay people across Britain still expect discrimination and poorer treatment from a range of public services.
Today Stonewall launched a report into homophobic hate crime. It found that one in three victims of a hate crime did not report the incident to the police because they thought nothing would be done.