Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has attacked Stonewall over its support of the government’s Equality Bill, saying the legislation is “discriminatory”.
Tatchell said in a statement: “The Equality Bill should be renamed the Inequality Bill. While other vulnerable groups are protected against harassment, protection is denied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are explicitly excluded from the anti-harassment clauses of the Bill.
“The leading gay lobby group, Stonewall, supports this discriminatory legislation, claiming that homophobic and transphobic harassment are not significant problems and can be dealt with under existing legislation.”
Tatchell continued: “Stonewall boasts that its stated purpose is to ‘promote equality’, yet it is ignoring the unequal treatment of LGBT people in this Bill. This collusion with discrimination reinforces the fear that Stonewall has compromised its political independence and is too closely identified with the Labour government.”
One area of particular concern to gay rights campaigners is the ‘opt-out’ available to faith schools, which will allow them to teach sex education in line with their own beliefs.
It is thought this could allow them to teach that homosexual relationships, sex outside marriage and the use of contraception are wrong.
Responding to Tatchell’s criticisms, Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill suggested the attack was a “cheap swipe” at other hardworking lesbian and gay organisations.
He told PinkNews.co.uk that the Equality Bill was designed to define and consolidate existing laws and that protection was already in place for gays and lesbians.
He said: “No one should suffer harassment because of their sexual orientation. It’s a real problem and one that demands legal remedy. And we believe that the existing laws provide that.
“If any gaps in the protection of lesbian and gay people remained in the Bill, we would be pressing the government to fill them.
“But sometimes it’s important to look at the detail of the law and doing that is often a lot more difficult than taking cheap swipes at other hardworking lesbian and gay organisations.”