A Devon gay charity has defended its decision to bar straight people from applying for jobs.

The Intercom Trust, which serves people across the south-west, said that it needed staff who had experience of being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

The charity is advertising two jobs on its website – one for a ‘community advocate’ in Cornwall and one for a helpline worker and administrator in Exeter.

Both say: “It is a genuine and determining occupational requirement of this post that the post-holder is lesbian or gay or bisexual.”

One person has complained about the second advert, telling the Exeter Express & Echo that it was “offensive”. The complainant said that their sexual orientation had “nothing to do with my ability to do the job”.

But Intercom Trust executive director Dr Michael Hall said that requirement was parallel to a rape crisis centre only employing women.

He told the newspaper: “This position for a helpline worker and administrator requires the person to answer the helpline and speak to people who have often suffered terrible emotional damage.

“If someone has spent years and years of their life desperately hiding from all of their family something they know will have them thrown out, they want to speak to someone who is sensitive to the issues of being gay or lesbian.

“And if they find themselves speaking to someone who is straight they may close down in the conversation.

“We cannot risk someone who hasn’t grown up with being gay or lesbian to possibly give the wrong response and we want people to feel like they can call the helpline for support.”

Dr Hall added that he had received one “angry” voicemail from a woman about the advert but she did not call back.

The adverts cite section 7.2 of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which allow discrimination if being of a particular sexual orientation is a “genuine and determining occupational requirement” for a job and if the requirement is proportionate.

If such requirements are found to be not genuine or proportionate, employers may be accused of direct discrimination.