Equality Bill clears first hurdle

THE SEXUAL Orientation Discrimination Bill looks set to be approved by the House of Lords.

Lady Turner's private member's Bill has passed its committee and report stage and is expected to pass its third reading on 1 May.

The Bill would amend the Sex Discrimination Act and make it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It would also amend the Equal Pay Act in order to ensure that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are entitled to the same pay and pensions as heterosexuals.

Angela Mason, executive director of the gay pressure group Stonewall, said: “We are very encouraged that the House of Lords has given its support to the principle that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are entitled to equal treatment at work.

“The Government claims to support this principle. It is high time it put its money where its mouth is.”

Martin Bowley QC, president of the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group, said: “We have the Race Relations Act, the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Disability Act. This would complete the quartet.

“The fact that the House of Lords will approve the Bill is a significant step forward. But I would be very surprised if the Government could find time for it in the Commons.”

The European Court of Justice is expected to rule shortly on the case concerning the dismissal of a transsexual (P v S and Cornwall County Council). Its judgment will be binding on UK courts.

The Advocate General's opinion in December stated that the European Equal Treatment Directive covers discrimination against transsexuals and homosexuals.

Janet Gaymer, head of the employment department at Simmons & Simmons, said: “The debate about right of transsexuals and related subjects won't go away.”

She added: “We have lobbying and agitation in the House of Lords, coupled with a landmark European case. Watch this space.”