Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations are secondary legislation in the United Kingdom, outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services, education and public functions on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The legislation is made under powers granted by the Equality Act 2006. Sections 81 and 82 of the Equality Act give the power to make regulations to the Secretary of State and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland,respectively. Regulations made under section 81 cover Great Britain (i.e., England and Wales and Scotland) whereas regulations made under section 82 extend to Northern Ireland.

The regulations for Great Britain were approved by a vote in both Houses of Parliament. The procedure for the Northern Ireland regulations was specified as a vote by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Given this had been suspended, arrangements for measures that require approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly were subject to the negative procedure (i.e., they could be annulled by a resolution of either House of Parliament).

Northern Ireland Regulations

The [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2006/20060439.htm| Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006] were made on 8 November 2006 and laid before Parliament under paragraph 7(3) of the Schedule to the [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2000/20000001.htm| Northern Ireland Act 2000] since the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended. The regulations came into force on 1 January 2007. Later in January 2007 there was an attempt to pass a motion to pray for an annulment of the regulations in the House of Lords. The resolution failed to pass by a margin of 199 to 68. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6243323.stm "Gay rights laws facing challenge"] , BBC News, 9 January 2007] Regulations covering Great Britain came into force on the 30th April 2007.

In 2007, the CI and others sought a judicial review to overturn the Sexual Orientation Regulations in Northern Ireland. Mr Justice Weatherup rejected the CI's complaint, ruling that while a clause relating to harassment (a clause unique to the Northern Irish version of the Regulations) should be set aside, the remainder of the Regulations were to remain in force.

Regulations relating to Great Britain

Regulations covering the rest of the United Kingdom were first laid before Parliament on the 7th March 2007. The Government had previously made an announcement that, for examples adoption agencies will be covered by the regulations (including those with a religious affiliation) [ [http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page10869.asp No 10 Downing Street Statement] ]

The [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20071263.htm regulations] were approved by the House of Commons on the 19th March and after debate by the House of Lords on the 21st March 2007. The regulations entered into effect on the 30th April 2007.

Guidance on the regulations was also issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government [ [http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1510066 Guidance on the Sexual Orientation regulations] ]

Debate over the proposed regulations

There was considerable debate on the degree to which religious organisations and individuals should be exempt from certain aspects of the legislation. Certain campaigning groups, including Christian Concern For Our Nation (part of the [http://www.lawcf.org Lawyers Christian Fellowship] ), [http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/ Anglican Mainstream] , the [http://www.christian.org.uk/home.htm Christian Institute] and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland campaigned for greater exemptions in the area of religious belief. Stonewall, the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the Trades Union Congress amongst others, argued for any exemptions to be limited to internal doctrinal matters.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York supported a call by the Roman Catholic Church for Catholic adoption agencies to be exempted from the regulations. [ [http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/releases/070123.htm Archbishops' Letter] ]

Debate in the parliamentary process centred on the lack of line-by-line scrutiny on the floor of the House of Commons as the regulations were considered in a Delegated Legislation Committee [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmgeneral/deleg12/070315/70315s01.htm House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee] ] , leading to an accusation of an abuse of Parliament. A debate took place in the House of Lords where a number of issues were considered, notably the extent of exemptions covering religious belief and practice [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldhansrd/text/70321-0010.htm#07032180000083 House of Lords debate] ]

The regulations have been given consideration by the Joint Committee on Human Rights which broadly approved the draft regulations. [ [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200607/jtselect/jtrights/58/5802.htm Joint Committee on Human Rights - 6th Report] ]


External links

* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/20060003.htm The Equality Act (2006)]
* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2006/20060439.htm The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006]
* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20071263.htm The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007] - Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 1263
* [http://www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/lgbt/orientation.htm Women and Equality Unit, UK Government] - "Sexual Orientation"

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