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    First Published: November 2004
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Prejudice towards minority groups is still common in Britain today. Even where tolerance exists, it can be grudging and some people still consider their prejudices well-founded. That's the conclusion of a new report published this week, Understanding Prejudice, which was based on polling conducted by MORI for gay and lesbian rights campaign group Stonewall. It found that prejudice was felt most strongly against asylum-seekers and travellers while older people and the disabled were subject to the least prejudice.

Publication of the report was welcomed by government minister Jacqui Smith MP who says that there are links between different forms of prejudice: "This report exemplifies exactly the sort of ‘cross-strand’ approach to the equality agenda that will be demonstrated by the Government’s proposed Commission for Equality and Human Rights.”

Meanwhile gay rights campaigners are not convinced that the new single equality commission will have gay rights as a priority and that racial prejudice is still treated far more seriously in the UK today. OutUK's Adrian Gillan heard the views of representatives from across the gay community.

Brenda Ellis - Greater London Action on Disability

All groups fighting for their rights will say they are bottom of the pile in terms of discrimination. This is not helpful to anyone. United we stand, divided we fall! Equalities should be dealt with across the board not from a certain limited viewpoint. That is the meaning of "equality": not "equality for you but not for you dearie". And we rarely sit inside one box anyway: I'm a disabled lesbian so there! "Hierarchies" occur where certain groups are able to be more vocal or visible than others. The LGBT community is relatively invisible compared with some since it's easy to stay in the closet, thereby doing nothing to boost our acceptance in society. A Single Equality Commission could clearly assist those groups like ours that struggle to be heard. However, it won't. It has been presented by a government who refuse to bring in fully-harmonized anti-discriminatory legislation, so demonstrating this is less to do with a genuine equalities agenda, and perhaps more a mere cost-cutting exercise. Let's get the laws in place first! How can a Commission monitor and enforce Laws protecting everyone equally when those Laws don't exist?


Jim Atkinson - former senior development manager at Sport England

Racism is definitely treated more seriously by society and media - and sport merely reflects this. Perhaps that's partly down to good old "Liberal Guilt": guilt felt now for "sins of the ancestors" is absurd but society's attitudes to racism are riddled with it and some black rights advocates play it for all it's worth. Moreover - unlike racism - anti-gay discrimination and abuse has oft been enshrined in repressive religious dogma which has in turn been codified in laws in many western societies which then leave an attitudinal "hang over" even once repealed. However, "hierarchies of hate" can work both ways! In women's football for instance, there have been complaints to the FA about lesbian teams discriminating against straights - something no-one wants to publicly ventilate! There is also a big issue around Afro-Caribbean and Muslim teams with virulently anti-gay attitudes and behaviour but people seem reluctant to tread there too. The idea that if one is black or gay one is automatically the victim is pernicious.

Ross Jackson - Director, Pride London

Racism is definitely treated more seriously than homophobia by Law and society and by mainstream media and organisations.
I've grown up in the wake of the Race Relations Act and would no more consider making a racist comment than I would plucking out my own fingernails. Meantime "gay" is still used as a term for the lowest of the low; we are still routinely ridiculed in the media and on popular TV shows; and there is never a mention of a famous gay person in the press without gratuitous reference being made to their sexuality: "George Michael, gay singing superstar".
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.

Pride London

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.

UK BlackOut

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.

Schools Out!



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