OutUK for more than 25 Years
    First Published: January 2003
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
From partnerships and pensions to employment and education: LGB lobbying and campaigning group Stonewall invited OutUK's Adrian Gillan to a special briefing to outline their work for the next twelve months.
Moving on to work issues more generally, Stonewall is mindful that - despite the recent European Employment Directive that came into effect last December - huge numbers of LGBs, and their employers, are still awfully unaware of the protections now in place or legal obligations now in force.
Says Ben Summerskill: "That is a big public education exercise. We've already produced and distributed hundreds of thousands of booklets and are about to produce a lot more - including translations into several languages used by minority communities and LGB workers coming here from across Europe."

Stonewall is, however, adamant that these recent employment laws are not in fact the best place to legally enshrine currently absent LGB protections on Goods and Services - whereby guest houses could no longer refuse gay guests nor public services, like hospitals, treat LGBs as second class citizens. They rather think such protections can most readily be built into a Single Equalities Act (see below).

Education For All Campaign

January will see Stonewall launch their "Education for All" campaign - in partnership with FFLAG (Friends & Families of Lesbians & Gays) and LGBT Youth, spearheading a coalition of over 50 organisations including other LGB groups, children charities, local authorities, trade unions and government at all levels - to challenge homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. Materials will be distributed to schools and a special website will highlight relevant best practice in education. The campaign is not directly linked to the Schools Out!-fronted LGBT History Month in February, although Stonewall supports this and can foresee potentially fruitful crossovers.

Explains Wardle: "Clause 28 may have gone but changing attitudes is longer-term. This carrot-and-stick campaign will highlight the new legislation as well as the positive benefits of culture change within school communities. But changing cultures and attitudes doesn't happen overnight - it's a huge task."

Single Equality Commission

Summerskill has also been selected to sit on an eight-strong steering group to oversee the formation of a Single Equality Commission by 2006, which might itself help develop - and then monitor and implement - a Single Equalities Act that would hopefully raise all LGB-related legislation to the same level as that for race and sex.

"It might not sound like it," says Summerskill, "but this is a hugely important opportunity in terms of building the sort of infrastructure that will really impact upon LGB lives over the coming decades. In an ideal world - yes - you probably would construct the legal framework of a Single Equalities Act first and then go to such a Commission to make it happen. But, at least we can now grasp a real and present opportunity to form a Commission within a matter of months, and then use it to help develop law."

He continues: "For me, one of the most important parts of building such a Commission is the opportunity to forge bonds with others involved - people like Mohammed Aziz from the Muslim Council of Britain who represents faith communities and is now completely onside about LGB issues. Moreover, we need a Commission more than most since - unlike race and disability - there's currently no statutory body looking out for LGBs. The Commission, once formed, should also enable the government to make more noise, generally, about LGB issues - including raising awareness of the new employment laws."

Partnerships & Pensions

To find out more about Stonewall's work or to help it campaign or raise funds check out www.stonewall.org.uk


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