Councillor expresses concerns about discrimination law opt outs

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Simon Williams, the Green Party councillor for Brighton, voiced his concerns today over the government’s soon to be implemented anti discrimination legislation.

New rules expected to come in in October 2006 will make it illegal for lesbian or gay customers to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Hotels, insurance providers and house sellers or landlords will all be targeted by the policy, which Mr Williams described as “welcome”. So why the concern?

“The new rules are welcome but we mustn’t have any opt outs,” said Mr Williams. “The danger is the Government may repeat what it did when it introduced protection for LGB people against discrimination in the workplace in 2003. They allowed religious employers to opt out of the regulations so they could sack employees for the sexual orientation.”

The Department of Trade and Industry is seeking opinions on how the legislation will be applied to religious organisations. “This could be a growing problem” commented Mr Williams. “Many housing and care services are now run by the voluntary sector which includes a large number of faith groups and charities. The risk is that our community may be excluded from these charitable services if religious organisations are given the Government’s official blessing to discriminate against us.”

Trade Secretary Alan Johnson said: “too often, gay and lesbian people can face discrimination in their everyday lives. I want to make sure that no one gets refused a room at a hotel or a table in a restaurant because of their sexuality. We intend to end this sort of discrimination and make sure that gay men, lesbians and bisexual people can enjoy the same rights and freedoms as heterosexual people. We are committed to bringing in this legislation in October and this consultation seeks views on detailed questions about how it will apply.”

“I would urge people to write in” Mr Williams added. “Make it clear that

equality means full equality.”