Government confirms protection but ends gay only bars
The Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly earlier today published the government’s planned regulations to protect from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
While it protects the LGBT community from discrimination, it means the legal end of gay or lesbian only bars.
Ms Kelly, who despite being the combining her role as Communities Secretary and Minister for Equality has yet to vote in favour of gay rights.
However, welcoming the publication of the regulations she said: “I am proud to bring forward practical new protections for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people.
“The overwhelming majority of people in our country want a society where every citizen is treated fairly and with respect. This Government, over the last decade, has done more than any other to build a decent and cohesive society.”
The regulations mean that it will be illegal to refuse a double room to a gay couple, refuse to offer a gift registration service, admission to a school based of a parent’s sexuality and to refuse admission to a sports club on the basis of sexual orientation.
But it also means that gay bars and clubs will have to let straight people in, as it will be illegal to discriminate against anyone due to their sexuality.
Ms Kelly also said: “The principles behind these measures are straightforward. It cannot be right in a decent, tolerant society that a shopkeeper or restaurant can refuse to serve a customer because they are gay. It cannot be right for a school to discriminate against a child because of their parents’ sexuality or not to take homophobic bullying as seriously as they should.”
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Gay campaign group Stonewall said that they welcomed the publication of the sexual orientation regulations.
“We’ll be working closely with MP’s and members of the House of Lords in coming weeks, ahead of votes in parliament to approve the new laws,” said Alan Wardle, Stonewall’s Director of Parliamentary and Public Affairs. “It’s essential that these regulations come into force in April to provide much-needed and long overdue protection from discrimination for gay people.”
George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbians Humanist Association said: “We are extremely pleased that the regulations haven’t been unduly compromised by concessions to religious groups. It also gives us hope that if the Government proceeds with its intention to hand many welfare services over to religious groups, that they will not be able to discriminate in the provision of these services on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Government has obviously come to the conclusion that when there is a clash of rights, gay rights must be put before the ‘rights’ of the religious.”
Welcoming the publication, Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the Trade Union Council said: “This is another historic milestone on the long road to ending discrimination against lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people. Unions are proud of the role they have played in the campaign to secure this new law.
“Of course everyone will want to study the regulations in detail, but there can be no doubt that this is a day of significant advance. It shows just how far we have come since the dark days less than 20 years ago when Parliament was passing Section 28.”
Lorely Burt, Equality spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said: “The Government’s intention to bring forward regulations along the lines of those already in place for Northern Ireland is welcome. These regulations will offer long overdue protection to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”