The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland has expressed disappointment at the defeat of the Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill 2012 in the Seanad yesterday.

The Bill, brought forward by Senator Averil Power of Fianna Fáil, sought to amend Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 to remove any prospect of employees in religious run institutions being discriminated against.

“We supported this Bill and applaud Senator Power for proposing it. The defeat of the Bill is very disappointing and represents a missed opportunity to address the fear of discrimination felt by many, in particular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers, before the beginning of another school year” said Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair.

The Bill aimed to remove the fear of employees and prospective employees in religious run institutions, such as schools and hospitals, that they could be discriminated against because they are married, single, divorced or in a civil partnership, or because they are lesbian or gay.

“While the debate was overwhelmingly supportive, issues were raised on some complexities consequent on the proposed Bill. It is unfortunate that the Bill was voted down by the Government. If it had been accepted, the next Stage, Committee Stage, could have been used as an opportunity to discuss further any legal complexities” said Rose.

“Strong statements of support addressing the issues of protection of LGBT teachers were expressed by both Ministers Alan Shatter and Ruairi Quinn, who both attended the debate, and by Senators from across all Parties. We welcome the commitment of the Government to address the issues and GLEN will continue work with Government and the Oireachtas to seek progress on this issue,” said Rose.

“While no case has yet been brought which alleges discrimination in this context, the threat implied by Section 37.1 has acted as a ‘chill factor’ for lesbian and gay teachers. It has meant that employees or prospective employees, whose lives may possibly be interpreted to be contrary to the religious ethos of some religions, have lived in fear for their jobs and their prospects within their employment” said Rose.

GLEN note that the current Programme for Government commits to address the issue, which has been continually identified by Teachers Unions, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers groups and LGBT groups as a potential barrier to employment by LGBT people in religious run institutions. The Programme for Government commits that “publically identified LGBT people should not be deterred from training or taking up employment as teachers in the State.”