Advice and guidance on what the Sexual Orientation Regulations mean for service providers, public authorities, religious organisations, providers of education has been released.
The Northern Ireland Equality Commission’s guide also covers those managing, selling and letting premises and offers advice on what action gay, lesbian and bisexual people can take if they feel that they are being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 placed duties upon the providers of goods, facilities and services and provides protection for LGB people.
Their introduction was controversial.
They were imposed by then-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain before self-government resumed.
In January 2007 a member of the Democratic Unionist Party tried to block them in the House of Lords.
The DUP’s leader Ian Paisley joined protesters outside the Lords, saying: “Are we really Christians and will we stand up for Jesus? We’re here to say that we’re on the Lord’s side.”
In the 1970s the former First Minister spearheaded a campaign against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, “Save Ulster From Sodomy,” and as recently as 2005 he led opposition to civil partnerships.
Since taking office in a joint administration with nationalist party Sinn Fein in May the DUP has muted their stance on gay rights.
The guidance, launched by the Commission in a publication entitled, Eliminating Sexual Orientation Discrimination in NI: A Guide on the Provision of Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises, provides practical advice.
It offers clear advice on how the provisions work from a range of perspectives and includes examples to illustrate the principles and concepts used in the legislation.
“This guidance is aimed to help service providers meet their obligations and provides an opportunity to review all policies and practices to ensure that they are in accordance with the law,” said Bob Collins, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission.
“The law sets out clear entitlements, for individuals or groups of individuals, not to be discriminated against and makes unlawful differential treatment based solely on a person’s sexuality.
“It cannot be acceptable, for example, that a bar or restaurant denies service to an individual on grounds of her or his sexual orientation or that a young person is denied the best possible education on grounds of his or her sexual orientation or that of a parent.
“These are rights that the majority of people take for granted and the guidance launched today will ensure that providers of goods, facilities and services are fully aware of their obligations under the law.
“For many providers, however, there may be no need to change current practices because these desirable principles are already embedded in their treatment of others.”
A copy of the guidance can be obtained from the Equality Commission on (028) 90 890 890 or at www.equalityni.org