Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and LGBT Equality

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2008 National LGBT Conference
24 July 2008

Conference welcomes the creation of the EHRC whose job is to provide support to equality and human rights in England, Scotland and Wales, while in Northern Ireland (NI) the NI Equality Commission has existed for some time.

Conference welcomes the fact that one of the areas prioritised by the Commission has been to litigate in areas of new law including discrimination based on sexual orientation and the Commission has clearly stated its intent to undertake work related to both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Conference believes that the work of the Commission will be vital in ensuring that new legislation (including the promised ‘Single Equality Bill’) will prove effective on the ground as well as promoting issues of human rights.

Conference is however concerned by the appointment of Joel Edwards (at the time of appointment the General Director of Evangelical Alliance – an organisation with a track record of opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality).

Whilst acknowledging the need for a diverse representation amongst Commissioners conference expresses concern that this appointment may undermine confidence in the Commission’s commitment to challenge discrimination faced by LGBT people, especially if that occurs in a sphere related to religion or a religious organisation.

Conference reiterates its view of equality in opposing any hierarchy of oppression but also emphasising that whilst individuals and groups enjoy freedom of religion, that must not be allowed to diminish the equality protections for LGBT people.

Conference also reiterates the need for the Commission and individual Commissioners to act to uphold the aims and principles of the EHRC.

There is a need to clearly monitor the effectiveness of the Commission’s work on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity

Conference calls therefore for the National LGBT Committee to:

1. Seek assurances from the EHRC of continued commitment to LGBT equality and a refusal of any hierarchy of discrimination;

2. Seek also a clear understanding of the duties of all Commissioners to demonstrate a commitment to equality for all equality strands, including sexual orientation and gender identity as a core part of the remit of the Commissioners;

3.To work with other interested groups (other Trade Unions, TUC LGBT Committee, Stonewall) to identify to the Commission and the relevant Government departments any areas of concern arising where a Commissioner is shown to be acting against one of the equality strands (e.g. on the grounds of their own religious belief);

4. To keep this matter under review and to include a summary of issues arising from the ECHR’s work related to sexual orientation and gender identity in its Annual Report to Conference (especially where any of these give rise to concern).