First Published: October 2006
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
From civie p’s to workplace rights: LGB lobbying and campaigning group Stonewall invited OutUK's Adrian Gillan to a special briefing, outlining their work for the coming year.
“The biggest thing that’s happened in the last twelve months is the arrival of civil partnerships,” beams Stonewall chief exec, Ben Summerskill (pictured right). “It has made a big difference to a lot of people’s lives - not least financially, in the case of surviving partners. We have been moved by the many stories we now hear.”

However, Big Ben has been less moved by the lesbian couple, Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who were recently hit with a £25k legal bill, following their unsuccessful bid to have their Canadian marriage recognised here in the UK.

“There are probably just as many gay people who don’t want civil partnership to be the same as marriage, as there are those that do. All that mattered to us, and our supporters, throughout our whole, successful, civil partnerships campaign, was gaining equal rights - and the resulting practical outcomes. Whilst many people were arguing about what things were called, we were fighting very hard with the likes of Gordon Brown to ensure things like pensions were included in the partnership legislation, which they eventually were - to the tune of £200 million.”


And Summerskill is not overly concerned about the delay, until next April – caused by an overwhelming response to Government consultation – to the implementation of aspects of the unfolding Equality Bill that provide protections to LGBs against discrimination in the delivery of goods and services. Calms he: “These laws will, like those for civil partnerships, make a massive difference to the lives of many millions of LGB people. They won’t just cover cases like that infamous Scottish B&B. They will cover everything from the NHS to care homes and adoption agencies.”
“The biggest outstanding issue on this is around any exemptions that may yet be granted around goods and services delivered by religious groups,” cautions Alan Wardle, Stonewall’s Head of Parliamentary Affairs (pictured right). “So we’ve been lobbying MPs and ministers hard, and now await their decision.”

This same Equality Bill also instigates an overarching Commission for Equality & Human Rights (CEHR) that will open shop next autumn and bring together and supersede the work of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission - additionally striving to protect older people, plus LGBT and religious minorities.

Stonewall has already expressed concern over the appointment of Trevor Phillips as the Commission’s Chair - claiming he hasn’t stood up for LGB rights in the past, when he has had the opportunity - but is adamant that his 14 Commissioners (to be announced imminently) should wear “broad hats” and not be appointed to specific sub-committees fighting the respective corners of the six equality “strands”: sexual orientation; race; disability; gender; age; and religion and faith. Says Summerskill: “My own view is that – quite apart from the fact it will cut miles of red tape - if you’ve got a Commission that is meant to be talking equality, and how we all get along together in a 21st Century liberal democracy, then the most sensible thing is that all those people are, fundamentally, sitting around the same table.”



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