In gap is to be closed between heterosexuals and

In this essay, I will be exploring how effective the
Equality Act (2010) has been in preventing inequalities in sexual orientation. The
Equality Act (2010) sets out a simple definition of sexual orientation as a
person who is attracted to someone of the “opposite sex”, “same sex” or “either
sex”1.
Using such a broad definition is key to keep the laws included in this section
of the legislation inclusive and available to everyone. I have paid more
attention to homosexuality. This is due to there being more inequality towards this
group that must be addressed if the gap is to be closed between heterosexuals
and homosexuals. In my research, I have found that there is still a lot to be
done for this legislation to be considered effective. However, I also found
that society has come a long way in their view of homosexuality and this will
only help put pressure to make more legislation to make society fairer and more
equal.

 

Discrimination against homosexuality is rife in history. It
was only in 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalized for men over the age of
21 in the Sexual Offences Act (1967). Just 100 years before that it was still
punishable by death. “Despite its decriminalisation in 1967, stigma and
prejudice against gay men and lesbians remained widespread over the subsequent decades”2. In
the early 1970’s, “gay rights organisations were springing up locally and
nationally”3.
By 1972, London held their first ‘Pride Parade’. The prejudice however
stagnated over decades as in the 1980’s there was the outbreak of AIDS in the
UK. This saw a huge campaign over how you could catch this syndrome, most of
what was being told to us was not true and this pushed us to have further
prejudice against homosexuals. At the same time of this we also saw the
government pushing an anti-homosexual piece of legislation in Section 28 of the
Local Government Act (1988) which stated that local government “shall not
intentionally promote homosexuality”4. During
the early 1990’s the ‘Pride Parade’ grew larger and more people would turn out
to show support. This prompted the government to reduce the age of consent to
18 in 1994 under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994). As society
changed their views of homosexuals, the government published the Civil
Partnership Act (2004) which allowed homosexual couples to have the same rights
as heterosexual married couples. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came
into force on the 29th of March 2014 and was celebrated as the UK
has come to the forefront of homosexual rights in Europe.5

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There have been remarkable improvements in society’s
acceptance of homosexuality that has been shown by the BSA’s survey of the
attitude between same sex couples where in 1999 27% of people agreed that there
was ‘Nothing wrong at all’ with same sex couples and in 2012 47% of people
agreed. This follows the same suit with people who said it is ‘Always wrong’
went down from 38% to 22%.6
These improvements however are overshadowed by how society still accepts some
types of homophobia and this is where legislation needs to be brought in to
eradicate or help the situation. This is shown in various institutions such as
the health service where the RaRe Research Report (2015) found that 26% of
lesbian, gay and bisexual staff personally experienced bullying or poor
treatment by colleagues in the last five years as a result of their sexual
orientation.7
Stonewall has found that homophobic hate crime has increased by 78% in five
years between 2013 and 2017.8 Even
small things most people take for granted like going to a football match where
it was found that seven in ten football fans who have attended a live match
have heard or witnessed homophobia, Leagues Behind has found9 or
walking down the street holding hands with a same-sex partner as Stonewall
found that 58% of homosexual men were made to feel uncomfortable holding hands
with each other.10
These studies show why despite there have been incredible changes in society in
such a short period of time there is still a lot of work for us to do and for
the government to put in place to help us achieve this. Malcom Sargeant wrote
that there is a “fourth group that may or may not be included” that are named “asexual”11.
Professor Anthony Bogaert defines asexuality as an “enduring complete lack of
sexual attraction”12.
I believe this marginalises the group further as their sexuality is ignored and
there is no protection of it in the act.

 

I found there is however a big societal change in general
but a perseverance or unwillingness to not change in religious groups. I found
that from the Citizens Advice Bureau website that the Equality Act (2010)
states that religious groups can “exclude you from participation in certain
activities”, “restrict membership of the organisation” and can “restrict the
use of premises”13.  Homosexuality cannot be completely entwined
as a norm until we all have the same rights. From cases I have researched of
religious groups discriminating against homosexuals, I have found that the law
is hard on this kind of discrimination. For example, in the Black v Wilkinson
trial. The owner of a bed and breakfast had “unlawfully discriminated against”
the homosexual couple under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations
200714. This
is a huge win for sexual orientation over religion as it shows there will be no
discriminating or any leeway in the law that has been set. This is evidence
that legislation to protect minority groups works, and more should be brought
in to help prevent every day types of discrimination.

 

Despite everything indicating that society is become more
tolerant of other sexual orientations, inside the education system shows that isn’t
the case. According to a survey by Cambridge University it was found that “45%
of LGBT young people are bullied at school” and “86% hear “that’s so gay” or “you’re
so gay” in school”15.
This shows clearly that despite the work that is being done to improve
equality, we are not teaching children in this country enough about the history
of LGBT, how the bullying affects them or what the words mean. Research done by
Stonewall shows that 80% of teachers have no training in dealing with
homophobic bullying16. If
we are to tackle the bullying of LGBT children it has to start with the
teachers educating the children on LGBT history and about bullying.

 

The Equality Act (2010) is 9 main pieces of legislation and
over 116 pieces of other acts and legislation banded into one large,
streamlined act. There is an emphasis from the Equality Act (2010) on promoting
equality rather than reducing inequality which can only be good as we all gain
more rights. The protected characteristics are inclusive and this enable us to
expand the rights of everyone further. The Equality and Human Rights Commission
claims that this is to “protect the rights of individuals” and to promote “equal
opportunity for all”. The Act “simplifies, hardens and strengthens the current
legislation” and “promotes a fair and more equal society”17
which is what we need in order to promote equality from ourselves knowing about
the Act and knowing our rights.

 

The Equality Act (2010) has been effective to an extent. My
research shows that there is still a whole lot more that is needed to be
covered in this Act for it to be considered effective for sexual orientation.
It has been effective in the sense that we are seeing improvements year after
year on people’s viewpoint of the LGBT community, this can only be a good thing
and it is promising. However, it is very worrying that there is nothing being
done from the education side of this when that is where everything should be
concentrated on. If children are educated from a young age about LGBT history
and about bullying then that will carry on for the rest of their lives and they
are far less likely to bully other children because of their sexual orientation.
It is also worrying that an entire sexuality has been ignored in this, asexuality,
which is giving the people who identify as asexual less rights than those who
are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. Finally, after researching I have
found that there is a severe lack of rights for non-heterosexuals who are part
of a religion, it gives those people no basis of a right to practice their
religion. It is doing the opposite to promoting religious freedom and it is
creating an exclusive group that only certain people can join. The government
has not promoted this Act enough so that it could be used to its full
advantage. In a survey taken out by the Government Equalities Office, it showed
that 66% of people either ‘Never heard of it’ or had ‘Heard of it but don’t know
anything about it’18.
This shows the government is not pushing this Act hard enough and people do not
realise their rights because of this.