Gay campaigners seek universal equality

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The government must make as few exemptions as possible in its new equality laws, gay campaigners have warned.

Speaking at the Labour Party annual conference last night in Manchester, a fringe meeting of the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights (LCLGR) and Stonewall, urged the government to ensure any concessions in the incoming Equality Act are minimal.

Junior Women and Equality Minister Meg Munn also attended the event which was chaired by Lord Waheed Ali.

Ms Munn hinted that the gay community would not be disappointed with the new Equality Act.

The new laws guarantee equality in the provision of goods and services regardless of sexual orientation, but many religious groups have complained that there rights will be impeded as a result of the legislation.

Chief executive of gay charity Stonewall, told the crowd of 40 delegates, that any exceptions to the law should be minimal, he said: “You don’t get Jewish people told that anti-Semites have a problem with laws to protect them.”

His statements were supported by Katie Hanson, co-chair of LCLGR, she called the law the “final bit” needed from Labour to ensure equality for the gay community.

Recognising that the government has to find a balance between religious belief and gay rights, she said: “There are no exemptions for racists in race relations laws so there shouldn’t be for religions,” she said.

Homophobic bullying was another hot subject on the agenda with campaigners calling for schools who fail to curb homophobic bullying to be punished for failing to provide a proper educational service under equality rules.

Ms Hanson told “The event was a huge success.”