May 2007

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations

The Equality Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against lesbians and gay men when providing goods and services, came into force on April 30th after a controversial battle. Though the House of Commons passed the legislation in March, government whips warned that it could be defeated once it reached the Lords.

However, after rejecting an ammendment by Conservative Baroness O'Caithain - who appeared to be influenced by a campaign of misinformation by The Christain Institute which claimed that the legislation would lead to schools being required to provide gay books or hold "gay lessons" - peers voted by 168 to 122 in support of the new law.

Prior to its passing in the House of Commons, the new legislation hit the headlines in February when it announced that Catholic adoption agencies would not be granted exemption from the new rules. This followed vociferous campaigning from church groups and there were rumours of a split in the Cabinet over the issue.

Christian groups and individuals have threatened at least three test cases against the new rules as they believe that the new Act disallows "freedom of religious belief".

The chief executive of Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, celebrated the legislation's passing, but said that the campaign against the Bill proved the need for the anti-discrimination legislation as it "reached new depths of unpleasantness and was a stark reminder of how much prejudice still exists in Britain".

Read more about the new Act at the Department of Communities and Local Government