Current Affairs

Equality laws may ‘disregard’ disabled gays

Marc Shoffman November 29, 2006
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Gay disabled groups have expressed concerns that the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will not adequately support those who experience multiple discrimination.

The CEHR, due in October 2007, will provide protection for minority groups such as gay people, the disabled and the elderly, but campaigners from gay disability group Regard are worried that the new equality laws will not correctly represent their views and will also be ignored by the wider gay community.

Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard said there is low awareness of disabled issues in the gay community and worries that this may be reflected in the incoming legislation. She told The Pink News: “The CEHR has no mechanisms for looking at multiple identities.

“The identities are seen separately.”

She claims there is more of a willingness in the disabled community to listen to gay views.

It comes after complaints that the Equalities Review, written earlier this year, failed to consult gay disabled groups in its attempt to establish types of discrimination in society.

Campaigners are aiming to ensure the current consultation on the Discrimination Law Review, which will form the CEHR’s manifesto, will include their views, but fear the gay community may not push forward their aims.

The CEHR will also be in charge of the new Sexual Orientation Regulations, due next April, which guarantee equality in the provision of goods and services, but Ms Gosling warns that the law is about more than just stopping hoteliers refusing beds for gay couples, “A lot of religious organisations are involved in providing social care, with the delays they could stop people visiting or partners staying, or you could have a homophobic personal assistant.”

Karen Shook, co-chair of Regard says the gay community’s obsession with the “body beautiful” means disabled people are often ostracised, she told The Pink News: “Anybody not up to fashion standards is ostracised.

“Disabled people are more often seen as an object of pity rather than on an equal basis.

Kirsten Hearn is a member of Regard, she is blind. She sees her disability and being a lesbian as important parts of her life.

She said the gay community has shared experiences with disabled people and should embrace them, “There is nothing I can do about my impairment, our journeys have been similar, this should mean that we find a common nature, but you often find division.”

Regard claims that the gay community has a higher proportion of disabled people because of issues surrounding homophobia and mental health as well as victims of anti-gay attacks and those with HIV.

The group campaigns for better access to venues and representation within laws relating to gay equality.

Disability campaigners have also previously criticised Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the new commission, accusing him of lacking awareness of their issues, an assertion echoed by the gay community after LGBT issues were rarely mentioned in the recent Equalities Review.

A spokesperson for the department of Communities and Local Government, overseeing the implementation of the CEHR said this is exactly what the new commission is aiming to amend, “The Commission will be able to take a human rights approach to equality that takes account of people’s multiple and inter-related identities. People cannot, and should not be pigeon-holed and we believe they can be better served by one Commission.”

This article first appeared in the December issue of The Pink News which is out now.

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