Equality bill ‘gives green light to homophobic bullying’


Campaigners say the exemption of sexual orientation from part of the new equality bill will give a “green light” to those who subject lesbian and gay disabled people to homophobic harassment.

Regard, the national organisation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) disabled people, has written to women and equality minister Harriet Harman, calling on her to correct the omission.

Regard says the bill denies protection against homophobic harassment by schools, the owners and managers of properties, and service providers, even though it outlaws harassment on the grounds of age, disability, race and sex.

Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, who wrote the letter, told Harman she feared the omission would allow “harassers and abusers” to “target LGBT disabled people with impunity”.

Gosling said in her letter: “All they will need to do to defend themselves is to cite sexual orientation as their motivation rather than disability.”

She said this omission would set back the situation of LGBT disabled people by “a generation”.

Her letter followed concerns about the LGBT omissions expressed in a letter to Harman by the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Gosling said in her letter to Harman: “We know from experience that LGBT disabled people face an even higher incidence of harassment and abuse than other disabled people and other LGBT people.

“We also know that young LGBT disabled people, including within special schools, face particularly high levels of bullying and harassment.”

A Government Equalities Office spokeswoman said: “The government is clear that no one should suffer harassment because of their sexual orientation or trans status, and if someone feels they are being harassed they could bring a claim under the equality bill’s discrimination provisions.

“We consulted on the inclusion of an additional, specific harassment clause.

“We were given evidence that this was needed for older people and disabled people because of specific problems they face, but we saw no evidence that this was needed for LGB and trans groups.

“If evidence were to arise, we would seek to address this.”

5 October 2009