Goods and Services – Sexual Orientation Regulations

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2006 National LGBT Conference
8 November 2006

Conference expresses its concern following newspaper reports regarding the implementation and possible exemptions to the regulations outlawing discrimination in goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation (Observer article 15th October 2006).

Conference notes that there have been approximately 3,000 responses to the consultation ‘Getting Equal’, which has led to the implementation date being put back from October to April 2007.

Conference notes that many responses were received from religious organisations seeking wider exemptions than the Government initially intended.

Conference welcomes the statement by Ruth Kelly in the House of Commons on the 19th October 2006 that [it] is absolutely right that we must provide effective protection against discrimination for gay, lesbian and transsexual people.

However, Ruth Kelly went on to say there are passionate views on each side. It is only right that we take the time to consider properly such a complex issue, so that we provide protection against discrimination in a way that is effective and appropriate and which gets the balance right so that people are able to hold religious views and beliefs.

It is clear from this that exemptions for the grounds of religious belief and practice are under active consideration by the Government, following the responses received during the consultation.

Conference believes that the sexual orientation regulations must apply in full to all organisations, religious or otherwise, including schools, colleges, adoption agencies, charities, general practitioners, housing trusts, nurseries and youth groups and believes the principle of equality before the law must take precedence over the views of a vociferous religious minority which, however sincere they may claim to be, is fundamentally opposed to that important principle.

Conference therefore asks the National Committee to work with the UNISON Labour Link and Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights (LCLGR) and TUC LGBT Committee to express our concerns to the Government and to keep members informed of any significant developments.

In the event of the regulations allowing wide exemptions on the ground of religious belief and practice Conference urges a broad based campaign on the issue, noting that the forthcoming Single Equality Act will also allow for this area to be reviewed, also emphasising the need for comprehensive legislation to cover discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and expression.