Sexuality – the New Agenda, follows the introduction
of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 which
came into effect at the beginning of December 2003, placing a legal requirement
on local councils and other employers to recognise lesbian, gay and
bisexual people as equal citizens. It is a tool that should also help
councils to fulfil their obligations in relation to community cohesion,
social inclusion, best value and community participation in local
The guidance has been jointly produced by the Local Government Association, who represent
local councils across the country, and the Employers’ Organisation in partnership
with campaign group Stonewall, trade union UNISON and the Association of London Government.
Cllr Laura Willoughby, Chair of the LGA’s Equalities Executive, said:
“For too long, sexual orientation has been treated as the poor relation
to other equality issues such as race and gender, and with the current
patchwork of equalities legislation and the legacy of repealed section
28, local authorities have been unclear how to address discrimination
based on sexuality and how best to deliver services to the lesbian, gay
and bisexual community.
“New legislation means councils will need to ensure that they are
recognising and complying with the rights of homosexual and bisexual
employees and residents and this guidance should be the ideal toolkit to
show good examples of how this can be done.
“Some authorities are already working well with lesbian, gay and
bisexual communities, but there is still discrimination out there which
we must tackle. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people do not conform to
typical stereotypes and are not a visible community of difference.
Councils do not even have census figures to know how large the resident
population is. They need to reach those people that may really need the
support and services they can offer, as well as make a valuable
contribution to the work of the council as a whole.
“Just consulting with recognised bodies has never been and is not
enough. Local authorities need to use their roles as community leaders
to ensure that the issues that are important to lesbians, gay men and
bisexuals are heard and that action is taken to include their needs.
“At all levels within a council, staff and councillors need to be aware
of the sensitive issues surrounding sexual orientation, and be committed
to wiping out discrimination. Regardless of political preferences,
equality is a subject that we must all be committed to. Whether we talk
about race, gender, sexual orientation or any other ‘community’, what we
are really talking about is people’s lives, and local authorities, as
community representatives, have an important role to play in improving
the social well-being of their area.”
The Local Government Association is lobbying central government for a
single equalities Act that would see all equality issues treated the
same. Current legislation and limited resources has forced many local
authorities to concentrate on certain aspects of equality to meet
centrally-imposed targets at the cost of others. Local government
leaders are urging the government to encompass all equality legislation
under a single Act and provide the resources needed to tackle issues
The guide produced for local authorities details some of the challenges
faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual communities and provides a checklist
of actions that councils should follow. It also includes examples of
the work that councils are already doing across the country.