Labour fails to explain Equality Bill exclusions

Harriet Harman ignores Tatchell / OutRage! letter

Government continues to deny gays protection against harassment


London – 28 September 2009

“The government is ignoring all requests to explain why its Equality Bill explicitly denies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people protection against harassment. Protection is offered on the grounds of race, gender and disability, but not on the grounds of sexual orientation or transgender identity. Why are we excluded? It is time Labour gave us an explanation,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

“I wrote to the Minister for Women & Equalities, Harriet Harman, nearly two months ago. Despite reminders, she has failed to offer any answers. Her stonewalling is disrespectful and disappointing. It is an insult to the whole lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to refuse to explain why we are excluded from this legislation.

“These exclusions are not accidental omissions. They are explicitly written into the Equality Bill,” said Mr Tatchell.

A copy of the Peter Tatchell’s letter to Harriet Harman, Minister for Women & Equalities, follows below:

Further information: Peter Tatchell 0207 403 1790

Minister for Women & Equalities
Cabinet Office
Whitehall, SW1

10 August 2009

Dear Harriet Harman,

Equality Bill

Below is a copy of a news release outlining OutRage’s concerns regarding the explicit exclusion from the Equality Bill of protection from harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment – and other related matters.

1) I would be grateful to receive from you an explanation for these harassment clause exclusions. We do not believe that they are justified and urgently request a government amendment to remove them – for the reasons stated below.

2) We also request that the protections for gender reassignment be redefined to cover the broader category of gender identity – see the news release below.

3) Finally, we ask that the government remove the exemption of faith schools from the curriculum requirements regarding sex and relationship education, as explained below.

I would be grateful to hear from you as your earliest convenience.

Yours with appreciation and best wishes,

Peter Tatchell, OutRage!,

Equality Bill discriminates

LGBTs excluded from anti-harassment clauses

London – 10 August 2009

“The Equality Bill should be renamed the Inequality Bill. While other vulnerable groups are protected against harassment, protection is denied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. We are explicitly excluded from the anti-harassment clauses of the bill,” said Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage!

“The government has failed to provide any rational, satisfactory explanation for this exclusion.

“This legislation is supposed to harmonise and standardise all equality laws, so that everyone has the same rights and protection. Sadly, it enshrines in law discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in clauses 28, 32, 33, 34 and 82.

“No LGBT group supports this discriminatory legislation, except Stonewall. It claims that homophobic and transphobic harassment are not significant problems and can be dealt with under existing legislation. If this argument is true, and harassment is already covered adequately under other existing legislation, why does the Equality Bill need to outlaw harassment on the grounds of age, disability, race and sex? Why does it specifically and uniquely exclude harassment on the grounds of gender reassignment and sexual orientation – and, in some instances, on the grounds of religion or belief? Why the differential treatment?

“Since this bill is intended to create a uniform legislative framework, all forms of harassment should be covered by its clauses. There should be no exemptions.

“As it stands, the Equality Bill denies protection against homophobic harassment by school authorities, by the owners and managers of properties and by the providers of services. Such harassment is outlawed on the grounds of age, disability, race, sex and in some instances on the grounds of gender reassignment. But in no case does it offer protection against harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“This omission gives a green light to homophobes. They won’t face sanctions for homophobic harassment under this proposed law.

“LGBT organisations like Stonewall and School’s Out are campaigning against homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, some of which is perpetrated or tolerated by school staff according to a Stonewall survey of LGBT pupils.

“By excluding protection against harassment in schools on the grounds of gender reassignment and sexual orientation, this legislation is sending a signal to schools that the harassment of LGBT pupils need not be taken seriously.

“Exempting schools from the anti-harassment clauses is particularly shocking and unforgiveable, given the widespread bullying of LGBT pupils. We urge the government to amend the Equality Bill immediately.

“The legislation has an anti-transgender bias. Protection against harassment is restricted to those people who are proposing, or have undergone, gender reassignment, and transgender pupils in schools are excluded from the Bill’s anti-harassment protections.

“The definition of transgender is too narrow. Trans people who are not yet planning, or have not yet undertaken, gender reassignment are left unprotected by the Equality Bill. The legislation should be amended to give protection on the wider grounds of gender identity, not the narrow grounds of gender reassignment.

“The Equality Bill has the overall good intention of harmonising and equalising all equality laws, to create a level legislative playing field. But this positive goal is undermined by the government’s simultaneous announcement that it plans to exempt faith schools from its action plan to tackle homophobic prejudice and bullying. They will be allowed to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with their own religious values, which often include the idea that gay people are sinners, unnatural, immoral and inferior human beings.

“Such values reinforce homophobia, which can lead to homophobic harassment, discrimination and violence,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

The discriminatory clauses of the Equality Bill:

Clause 28 – Provision of services – Ban on discrimination, harassment and victimisation

Clauses 32, 33 and 34 – Disposal and management of premises by landlords and freeholders etc. – Ban on harassment

Clause 82 – Schools – Ban on harassment (excludes harassment on the grounds of both sexual orientation and gender reassignment).