Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Equality Act: GB Sexual Orientation Regulations

The UK government today published the draft text of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

The government press release is here: New protections for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people come into force in April. Part of the press release says:

The regulations and consultation response published today reconfirms the Government’s position set out on 29 January on faith based adoption and fostering agencies. As the Prime Minister said, the Government believes there is no place in society for discrimination but that in the interests of vulnerable children, the regulations will provide for a transition period for faith based adoption and fostering agencies until the end of 2008.

The Regulations will be applicable to a wide range of activities. For instance it would be unlawful to:

  • Refuse a same sex couple a double room in a hotel because this might cause offence to other customers;
  • Refuse to provide a gift registration service for couples planning a civil partnership where such a service was offered to couples planning a wedding;
  • Refuse admission to a bar because someone was not gay;
  • Refuse a child’s admission to a school on the grounds of either their or their parents’ sexual orientation;
  • Refuse membership of a sports club to an individual on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

The Regulations will now go before both Houses for debate and, subject to Parliamentary approval, come into force on 30 April 2007 the same time as Part 2 of the Equality Act.

Part 2 provides parallel protection against discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of people’s religion or belief.

The wording of Regulation 14 which provides the principal exemptions relating to religious organisations is reproduced in full below the fold. I will provide a further analysis of the religious exemption aspects of this draft soon. The text of the regulation is © Crown Copyright 2007.

Organisations relating to religion or belief

14. —(1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (8) this regulation applies to an organisation the purpose of which is—

(a) to practice a religion or belief,

(b) to advance a religion or belief,

(c) to teach the practice or principles of a religion or belief,

(d) to enable persons of a religion or belief to receive any benefit, or to engage in any activity, within the framework of that religion or belief.

(2) This regulation does not apply —

(a) to an organisation whose sole or main purpose is commercial,

(b) in relation to regulation 7 (Educational establishments, local educational authorities, and education authorities).

(3) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for an organisation to which this regulation applies, or for anyone acting on behalf of or under the auspices of an organisation to which this regulation applies—

(a) to restrict membership of the organisation,

(b) to restrict participation in activities undertaken by the organisation or on its behalf or under its auspices,

(c) to restrict the provision of goods, facilities and services in the course of activities undertaken by the organisation or on its behalf or under its auspices, or

(d) to restrict the use or disposal of premises owned or controlled by the organisation,

in respect of a person on the ground of his sexual orientation.

(4) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a minister—

(a) to restrict participation in activities carried on in the performance of his functions in connection with or in respect of an organisation to which this regulation relates, or

(b) to restrict the provision of goods, facilities or services in the course of activities carried on in the performance of his functions in connection with or in respect of an organisation to which this regulation relates,

in respect of a person on the ground of his sexual orientation.

(5) Paragraphs (3) and (4) permit a restriction only if imposed —

(a) if it is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation; or

(b) so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

(6) In paragraph (4) the reference to a minister is a reference to a minister of religion, or other person, who —

(a) performs functions in connection with a religion or belief to which an organisation, to which this regulation applies, relates; and

(b) holds an office or appointment in, or is accredited, approved or recognised for purposes of, an organisation to which this regulation applies.

(7) For the purposes of paragraphs (3)(d), “disposal” shall not include disposal of an interest in premises by way of sale where the interest being disposed of is the entirety of the organisation’s interest in the premises, or the entirety of the interest in respect of which the organisation has power of disposal.

(8) This regulation does not apply where an organisation of the kind referred to in paragraph (1) or any person acting on its behalf or under its auspices—

(a) makes provision of a kind referred to in regulation 4, or

(b) makes provision of a kind referred to in regulation 8,

on behalf of a public authority under the terms of a contract for provision of that kind between that authority and an organisation referred to in paragraph (1) or, if different, the person making that provision.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 at 9:34pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

At last. After being debated in principle in Parliament under the Equality Act which gained Royal Assent in February 2006, after a consultation phase lasting nearly 12 months in all, after intense scrutiny in the media and in Parliament, scrutiny over the Northern Ireland regulations (including scrutiny by 3 parliamentary committees and a debate in the House of Lords) which entered into force on the 1st January - we are finally near the finishing post - the regulations have arrived.

While they are regulations and not primary legislation I find they have been intensively and indeed exhaustively debated and considered to a degree that is unusual for any legislation.

So here we are. There are some things I do regret like the failure to include harassment but on the whole I think the regulations are adequately framed for their purpose which is to provide protection for people who face discrimination in goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation.

I am sure it will not be long before various assorted Christian groups start getting agitated, but as I have explained in my posts relating to Nigeria, repelling legal protections for LGBT people is somewhat hardwired into their worldview, their raison d'etre, and we shouldn't be surprised by this.

All in all, a day to celebrate!

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 at 10:02pm GMT

This should end the unfair discrimination that the explanatory notes describe - when people have had to suffer purely because of their sexual orientation.

On the religious exemptions, they appear to be more widely drawn than necessary. Keeps things clear I suppose, but it could be taken as an suggestion that some religions believe in discriminating against individuals *purely* because of the sexual orientation they experience... Anyone know of *any* religions that actually do that ?!

I suppose that occasional problems will arise for Christian individuals and organisations that provide services etc to the UK public, mostly due to the Reg.s obliging them to treat Civil Partnerships and Marriage as equivalent in all ways.

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 7 March 2007 at 11:58pm GMT

Someone in England ought to forward this package to ++Akinola and suggest he propose to substitute it for the pending Nigerian legislation. After all, had he had this as a model earlier, no doubt he would have championed it.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 4:18am GMT

Dave asked: "Anyone know of *any* religions that actually do that?!"

Yes Dave. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

We all could add a few... including you, Dave ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 8:02am GMT

The separate and very real problem of harassment at school, in the workplace & c., is easily solved with separate Legislation on Harassment.

Not even Dave could object...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 8:09am GMT

What protection does this provide for the bisexual? If a bisexual wants to contract a Civil Partnership they can't. If a bisexual wants to book into a b & b with both (or several) partners, will they be allowed to? When is this government actually going to do something instead of just paying lip service to equality?

Posted by: John Richardson on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 10:25am GMT

For my partner and I, this is all great news. But I am very disappointed that the same protections have not been extended to transsexual people.

Posted by: Jenny Hynes on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 11:14am GMT

Its good news indeed. It makes it clear that there is no room for discrimination in the public sphere against gays and lesbians.

Marriage and civil partnership have legal parity so should be treated equally.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 11:28am GMT

I still don't understand how you are going to be able to prove that you've not been given a bed because of your sexuality - which is illegal - rather than your shoe size, which isn't illegal.

The idea that the government can dictate who businesspeople chose to discriminate against is a tad bizarre in my opinion.

Posted by: joe on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 12:05pm GMT

Joe - Here's how it works in the U.S. If everyone with the same shoe size gets a bed, except those gays with the same shoe size - then it's de facto discrimination based on sexuality. It's not hard to prove at all. It's done all the time with respect to race, age and gender.

C.B.

Posted by: C.B. on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 2:09pm GMT

John,
I'm not sure I understand why you think bisexuals cannot enter into Civil Partnerships. All we have to do is turn up at the registry office with a partner of the same sex. We're not asked to certify that we're truly 100% homosexual.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 2:34pm GMT

What protection does this provide for the bisexual? If a bisexual wants to contract a Civil Partnership they can't. If a bisexual wants to book into a b & b with both (or several) partners, will they be allowed to? When is this government actually going to do something instead of just paying lip service to equality?
Posted by: John Richardson on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 10:25am GMT

You need to learn what bisexuality is.

Posted by: toujoursdan on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 2:51pm GMT

I have to say, I too am sceptical as to how much really committed homophobic hoteliers, for example, might prevented from refusing to serve people on the grounds of their sexuality.

My first doubts were raised when I read the first point of the summary:

"Refuse a same sex couple a double room in a hotel because this might cause offence to other customers;"

My first thought was, 'but what if the offence was too the hotelier him/herself? But a quick perusal over the actual proposed legislation made me feel that the spirit of the law was fairly clear and that loophole would probably be coveered.

But Joe has a point along similar lines. I would greatly appreciate some clarity from someone more law-savvy as to how these things work in practice. Does the law mean that shoe size for a silly example (in place of more credible excuses like, 'oh, he looked dirty') could in practise render the law ineffectual?

I'm guessing that is the case to a degree, but that it is a worthwhile step in the right direction anyway.

On another note of Joe's, I'm wondering:

a) whether Joe has ever worried about booking into a place for a holiday afraid that the holiday might be ruined by the owners not liking his 'type'? and

b) whether he thinks legislation that outlawed hoteliers refusing people on grounds of their race was bizarre also.

Posted by: matthew hunt on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 3:16pm GMT

Proving discrimination is always the trick... The reason my wife had such a hard time finding employment was *not* because she was pregnant it was because it "wasn't a good fit" or "just didn't have the skills we were after". Yeah...sure... Funny how the skills arrived as soon as the baby was born.

Posted by: Derek the Ænglican on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 3:33pm GMT

I take it that the much wider exemption than originally proposed in the consultation document (in line with Northern Ireland)means that a wide variety of welfare activities carried out by religious groups (including life-or-death provision of food, shelter, etc. to failed asylum-seekers and other migrants ineligible for state assistance, as with the growing number of Poles and other Eastern Europeans) may be refused to people on "religious" grounds, not being publically funded.

I note also the very wide definition of "minister"
in (6).

As to (5), how many "organisations" have doctrines? And whence the leap from organisation to religion from (a) to (b)? (I know (b) derives from the Employment Equality Regulations.)

Posted by: Richard on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 3:54pm GMT

The main immediate function of these regulations is that of being a bell weather. Do these more balanced views reflect the majority of citizens in contemporary UK society? Do these regulations say as much about the changing society, speaking forcefully to the churches who cannot yet discern the importance of the shallow daily fairness of these things, just as they might speak and demonstrate to other domains of secular citizenship?

Like the Diocese of New Hampshire USA electing Bishop Robinson?

Like the welcoming extended family saying hello to one's partner and children?

Like the friends and co-workers making sure one knowns one's partner/children are invited to the annual Spring picnic in Green Park High?

Or does a person have to pass, first, through the gauntlets of all the designated Orgasm Counters - and must all the Counters agree? - before one goes on holiday, shows up at work for important team meetings, or introduces one's children and partner to uncle Fred who has just showed up at an extended family gathering for the first time in ten years?

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 4:01pm GMT

"Proving discrimination is always the trick..." Yes that's true, but there are many ways of demonstrating that it exists. And once a few cases are won, businesses tend to want to avoid the cost of litigation and settlement. They begin to actually try and avoid such suits. And low and behold, people actually become more sensitized to how their policies might have an illegal discriminatory affect. So they change them, and begin to educate their employees how to implement new policies. And there is a generalized view that such discrimination is altogether improper in the public sphere, and society as a whole benefits and becomes more equitable to all. Perfect it is not. Better it is.

C.B.

Posted by: C.B. on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 5:08pm GMT

I must admit to being quite amused by the thought that all bisexuals have two partners at all times ...

How do they do that?

I think it's important to realise that bisexuals may be single or in a relationship with one person at a given time.

I seem to recall the Church of England bishops having some similar difficulties with basic logic in drafting that wonderfully erudite document "Some Issues in Human Sexuality".

As for the issue of gender identity, this will be dealt with later this year (December) with further regulations in order to comply with an EU gender equality Directive.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 5:28pm GMT

What you need to remember is that the regulations are a statement - about the sort of society we want to be - and such law undoubtedly does act as a deterrent.

I don't agree that the exemptions are very much wider, and clearly the onus will be to prove that the activities themselves are linked to doctrine

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 6:09pm GMT

Goran,

Do you not think it a bit presumptuous to tell Dave what he things? Perhaps you should emulate his willingness to listen? We can all learn from him I think.

James

Posted by: James Crocker on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 7:01pm GMT

"For instance it would be unlawful to:
* Refuse admission to a bar because someone was not gay"

Got that, hets? You're now free to slake your thirst at the local leather bar! *LOL*

[Seriously: in as far as there actually *has* been discrimination at gay (and lesbian) bars, isn't it more likely to have been because one is the opposite sex? Or the same sex . . . but not *attractive* enough??? "Looks-ism"---gay OR straight---is a lot more difficult to ban! ;-/]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 7:25pm GMT

There seems to be some confusion over terms. Bisexuality is not polygamy.

And as we know from the AIDS pandemic, there are a lot of church going "down low" men who are adulterers and dishonest about their bisexual tendencies.

I don't see why a higher standard is imposed upon GLBTs when so many "good" Christian men are forgiven for their indiscretions, especially if they are priests.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 8:19pm GMT

Seems a clumsy piece of legislation to me -- one aspect of its clumsiness is that it actually makes gay bars illegal.

Posted by: Fr Joe O'Leary on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 9:05pm GMT

CB says "Proving discrimination is always the trick..." Yes that's true, but there are many ways of demonstrating that it exists. And once a few cases are won, businesses tend to want to avoid the cost of litigation and settlement. They begin to actually try and avoid such suits. And low and behold, people actually become more sensitized to how their policies might have an illegal discriminatory affect. So they change them, and begin to educate their employees how to implement new policies. And there is a generalized view that such discrimination is altogether improper in the public sphere, and society as a whole benefits and becomes more equitable to all. Perfect it is not. Better it is.

Nope -fraid not HR departments create more and more forms and regs. (and re U.S show sizes I've seen the impacts on Us ERP systems!) -and then the manager on the ground chooses the person he likes and afterwards fills in the forms to meet the paperwork requirements!

Posted by: dave williams on Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 10:51pm GMT

dave williams - I guess it's a whole lot better not to have any laws against discrimination including those against gender, race, disability or age discrimination. In fact all fair employment laws should be taken off the books - what good does it do? People go on with their ignorant hate anyway. Why afford anyone recourse under the law. Government can't legislate morality. It serves no purpose in creating equity and fairness. Really??? Geesh!

Posted by: C.B. on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 12:00am GMT

Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) will be fully implemented from 30 April 2007 in the UK without a parliamentary debate and without concessions, the Government have used their underhand parliamentary tactics once again to force these unwelcome new rules on the majority without a consensus and without the issue being debated in the House of Commons. What did you expect from this atheistic Government? How do you feel now, you trusting liberal Christians and Catholics about this Government? Maybe you were taken in by their false reassurances and their smooth sounding sound bites? Fools the the lot of you! When will you wake up to the fact that this Government doesn't care less about your weak protests? This is an aggressive secularist agenda, all you need do to let it continue , is to do the same as you have done for the last ten years. NOTHING!

Posted by: Simon Icke on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 12:04am GMT

I should say that all British legislation is "clumsy" - that's the way it gets written - it's a miracle anyone understands any of the laws that get passed.

As for gay bars this was explicitly consulted on, with the Government taking the view that it was wrong to have any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. I agree, unless it has a proper and limited aim.

Actually there are very few venues that stop people enterring if they are not gay so I don't think the "gay bars will have to close" problem will present itself.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 12:27am GMT

Should also like to add this link to the Government's response to the consultation and also incorporates comments on the Northern Ireland regulations and the Joint Committee on Human Rights' report:

http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1508235

It's actually a fairly accessible and reasonably easy to read document....

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 12:49am GMT

Fr. Joe,
why would that legislation make gay bars illegal? Our local gay pub in Chicago usually never had less than 50% of the crowd being straight/heterosexual at any one time. Usually our staight friends far outnumbered us - and it was officially advertised as a gay bar. The music was great, the crowd was very friendly and the beer was cold. And as a regular feature this gay bar featured "celebrity guest bar tenders" (usually locals and neighbors) and the crowd favorite, hands down, was always a retired army colonel and his wife. And when one of the bartenders, an openly gay man, had a heart attack and died, his funeral, at an Episcopal church, was packed with the straight couples from our neighborhood and their children. Our gay bar in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago was in many ways one of the anchors of the neighborhood for the straight and gay people who lived there.

Fr. Joe, you might have the wrong idea about gay bars, or maybe cities like Chicago are just more open and accepting than your part of the world.

Posted by: Dennis on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 1:47am GMT

Fr Joe and Craig

Please. We have a large number of solicitors and barristers to keep off the streets. Let us write our legislation in the way most likely to reduce unemployment...

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 9:09am GMT

Simon Icke - you clearly do not understand parliamentary procedures. This sort of change takes place via statutory instrument - it is essentially a way of extending already agreed principles. What you have to recognise is that your homophobic outlook is no longer acceptable as a basis for public policy. The debate in the Lords made it clear what the view of the Upper House was, and do you seriously think that the vote in the Commons would be any different? All of the main party leaders support the introduction of these regulations.

If you call giving equality and legislating against discrimination 'secularist', then lets have more secularism - what we do not want is conservative theocracy. Allow the tiny number of conservative Christians to believe as they do, but not inflict their prejudices on me and others like me who loathe their religion.

I would hope that many liberal Christians are fully in support of the SOR's, despite the mealy mouthed compromising of Williams the Spineless

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 10:55am GMT

JCF wrote, "Got that, hets? You're now free to slake your thirst at the local leather bar! *LOL*"

Heh. OK, JCF - if we're ever in the UK at the same time, let's get together for an evening and go to the most bizarre gay leather bar we can find for a pint or two. What do you say ? ;)

Posted by: David H. on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 2:21pm GMT

Simon Icke

Blair, Brown and Kelly are church-goers, to name but three of this rather religious government!

And what a lovely touch to have this legislation and the regulations steered through, by a member of Opus Dei, to boot ! Is this a delicious irony ! Or an ingenious way to bring believers in behind her and this new law ! If Opus Dei are cool about it -- so am I !

I might even apply for membership ....

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 2:36pm GMT

Göran wrote: Dave asked: "Anyone know of *any* religions that actually do that?!" Yes Dave. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)."

Dear Göran, good point.. and I've posted here more than once that they should not be supporting the proposed oppresive legislation.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 11:40pm GMT

James wrote: Goran, Do you not think it a bit presumptuous to tell Dave what he thinks? Perhaps you should emulate his willingness to listen? We can all learn from him I think.

Dear James, Being attacked on the basis of someone else's assumptions is pure discrimination, yet it seems to be the stuff of some liberal debates. I am regularly surprise, usually unpleasantly, by the things and ways that I (and other traditionalist/evangelicals) are supposed to think..

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 9 March 2007 at 11:51pm GMT

And we, dear Dave, by some of the things some of you actually do think...

(think cats, higher animals/lower animals, Free Masons, "science" and statistics... ;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 10 March 2007 at 5:47am GMT

Dear Goran, I'm happy to defend or discuss what I actually do think... but not what I don't - whether from someone's imagination or deliberate misrepresentation!

ps I can't remember commenting on several of the topics you suggest "cats, higher animals/lower animals, Free Masons, "science" and statistics."

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 10 March 2007 at 5:16pm GMT

I typed in 'God', 'Jesus' and 'Bible' in the FIND tool and got no results. You're certainly thinking. But in what sense can you call yourselves Anglicans when you pay absolutely no regard to the God you profess to believe in?

Posted by: Neil Richardson on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 at 9:45am GMT

Neil
What you should have got is:
An error occurred
You are currently performing a search. Please wait until your search is completed.

This is because the search function on this site is currently broken. We do know this, and it will be repaired when time permits.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 March 2007 at 11:01am GMT
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