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       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.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.

Inspector Paul Cahill MBE - Gay Police Association

Our experience is that there is a "hierarchy of discrimination" and of diversity generally. The police service has been driven to focus on race because of the political pressures placed upon it post Stephen Lawrence.
Whilst the race reforms have had a knock-on effect for positive change in all areas, it has also led to the greater marginalisation of gay staff. In many cases it is used as an excuse not to promote sexual orientation because to do so might be seen as "diluting the message on race".
Homophobes - particularly the senior officer variety - justify their inaction by referring to governmental priorities around race equality. The word "diversity" is often misused, when really what is means is "race". The GPA is constantly challenging documents that purport to promote diversity but in actual fact only promote race equality. Whilst we have no problem with the notion that race equality is an important issue, we do have a problem with the whole subject matter being misrepresented for political ends.

Recently the government and ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) has changed the titles of many of its key diversity strategy groups and policies. Most now talk about "Race and Diversity". Why on earth is this necessary when - surely - diversity includes race? Why has it been singled out as more important that all the other diversity issues? This prioritisation has led to unhealthy competition between minorities within the police service struggling for resources and recognition. And in many ways it undermines the message of true equality and suggests that some are more equal than others. This "official discrimination" empowers homophobes to target gay officers and staff, in the knowledge or belief that they remain at the bottom of the pile and are unlikely to be supported by the organisation.

The GPA is extremely frustrated by the situation. We have called for generic hate crime laws to be introduced - covering not just race hate or religious hate but all hate, including that aimed at gay people; we still lag miles behind the resources that other staff associations like the BPA (Black Police Association) receive whose laudable agenda is directly supported and built into the Home Office's National Policing Plan where "gay" doesn't even get a mention; and - regarding the Damilola Taylor investigation - my view remains that the service played down the homophobic links because of political pressure to treat the murder as a racist crime and since it was suggested, more than once, that it would be unhelpful to publicise the homophobic aspects of the case since the black community would have a problem understanding them.

Gay Police Association

Peter Tatchell - human rights campaigner

Racism is deplorable but that is not a justification for it to be treated more seriously than homophobia.
The Race Relations Act (1967) outlawed the incitement of racial hatred but, four decades on, there is still no law against inciting homophobic hatred; workplace discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation was only prohibited last year but similar protection for ethnic minorities has likewise existed since the 60s. That is inequality and double standards. Queers are being treated as second class citizens. The new, comprehensive Equality Commission is long overdue but - although it will tackle all forms of discrimination - it will still enshrine the principle that some people are more equal than others, as laws stand. Queers will remain at the bottom of the heap. Typical New Labour: inferior legal protection for LGBTs.
Human Rights Fund

Greg Woods - Professor of LGB Studies, Nottingham Trent University

This isn't a competition: we shouldn't resent other groups' successes. However: when the Labour MP Oona King visited the bombed-out Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho in April 1999 with Prince Charles - after two previous bombs clearly targeting Asian communities - she said that the prince's presence showed that "racism was rejected" by the British establishment. No mention of homophobia! Since then, some progress has been made but a lot of people still think we choose to be gay, and therefore deserve less support than black or disabled people, say, who clearly don't make such "choices"; we are also still widely regarded as being immoral, and therefore as deserving punishment; and "gayness" just isn't generally taken very seriously - we are allowed to be camp, stylish and funny, leading so-called "lifestyles" seemingly consisting of doing nothing but enjoying ourselves and the price we pay for this is for homophobia to be thought as trivial a matter as gayness itself.

Simon Nelson - Black Gay Men's Development Officer, Terrence Higgins Trust

All minority groups equally deserve laws to protect them from discrimination, including LGBTs. Moreover, one form of discrimination does not sit in isolation from another - just ask any older, black, disabled lesbian.
So the move towards one, unified Commission could be a step in the right direction, despite the remaining anomalies in Law. That said, the Commission's staff would need to become fully versed in the complex issues faced by the varied plethora of minority groups. I am sure there are many people handling discrimination issues who hold prejudices towards individuals and specific groups other than their own, thus never fully understanding their shared struggles for justice and equality.
Terrence Higgins Trust



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