| While we await legislation that protects
all so-called "minority groups", the new Equality Commission may at least provide
them with a focus to get their voice heard in government. But 0lumping everyone
together may not be the best thing.
Alan Wardle - Parliamentary Director, Stonewall
We wouldn't so much say that racism is taken more seriously than homophobia, rather that
society woke up to it as an issue that had to be dealt with much earlier than homophobia.
As a result, race is much further advanced and embedded as an anti-discrimination issue.
This is reflected both in the Law - like protections for goods and services, a public
sector duty to promote race equality, hate crime legislation - as well as in areas
such as company HR policies and bullying procedures in schools which invariably
discuss racist bullying but rarely the homophobic variety. However, societal
attitudes to gay issues are changing - and fast. Events such as the Admiral Duncan
bombing made many people think for the first time about the nature and extent of
homophobia in this country. Several discriminatory laws that were in place for years
have been removed - like the age of consent, Clause 28 and sexual offences laws - and
we're now moving to a more positive agenda including workplace protection and
the civil partnership legislation.
Stonewall believe that many of the issues relating to discrimination currently revolve
around the notion of "difference". Yet, while there are differences between sexual orientation
and race - not to mention disability, gender, age and religion - there are also many commonalities.
That is why we believe the solutions should be looked at in the same way - with equal legal protections
for all minority groups - and why we support the new proposed Commission, which will look at these issues
in a holistic way and offer solutions that are adaptable to many different groups, whilst always
recognising there will be issues specific to each. We believe that through this route any
"hierarchies of prejudice" will become a thing of the past.
Depending on exactly what powers the new government-funded body has when it comes into being,
Stonewall may well adapt and work differently. But a strong voice, independent of government,
will always be needed for LGB people and Stonewall will continue - with others - to play that role.
Andrew Prince - UK BlackOut
Racism is treated more seriously than homophobia. This is partly since the fight for racial
equality started the day the fight began to end slavery; whereas the modern gay rights movement
really only came to the fore with the Stonewall riots in 1969 and gay people on a whole have
only just started to be taken seriously in relatively recent years.
This has helped engender a variety of issues. For example, it is a strangely but widely held
belief that one chooses to be gay or lesbian in a way you don't choose the colour of your skin.
And - whilst you can indeed scarce hide your colour, and few would hesitate to report a
racially motivated attack - not all LGBs are out, and many would fear even reporting an
attack that was motivated by homophobia.
Lots of people still fail to see the commonalities between civil rights and racism with gay
rights and homophobia. The new Single Equality Commission planned for 2006 may help to
redress this situation, but the first step is surely to change discriminatory laws - current
laws are unequal, giving more rights to some people than to others.
Sue Sanders - Schools Out!
Schools Out! has responded to the government's consultation on the much-vaunted unified,
over-arching Single Equality Commission. We have several concerns. We are not sure the
proposals, as drafted, really grapple with the "hierarchy of discrimination" we experience
daily in schools and wider society and as enshrined in current Law; there is a considerable
interim period between the 2006 launch date and now, a period so crucial for the LGBT
community in particular to help capitalise on recent legal developments; and there is
only one explicitly LGBT representative on the guiding Task Force, from Stonewall -
there needs to be more if LGBT issues are not to be marginalised.