Gay civil partnerships went through in the UK with barely a whimper, but it seems that the real test has come with the Goods and Services Act which is designed to prevent organisations offering public services from discriminating against anyone. In terms of gay people, this basically means that if you’re running a hotel and you hire out double rooms to heterosexual couples, you have to hire out double rooms to gay couples as well. You will not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of your customers’ sexual orientations.
From the Guardian. The sexual orientation regulations, which came into force in Northern Ireland on January 1 and will apply in England and Wales from April, require organisations to treat gay and lesbian people just as they would treat anyone else. Discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or religion is already disallowed, and the change in the law is a sensible recognition of a form of equality which already been accepted by parliament in everything from a single age of consent to civil partnerships.
The act has whipped up nasty homophobic backlash with the Daily Mail and various faith groups in the lead, spreading some outrageous stories about the Act’s implications.
Polly Toynbee on the homophobic panic: Get one thing clear: this law does not stop religions from banning gays joining their congregations or becoming priests. (Though they don’t seem to be very good at it.) But it does oblige any organisation or business offering services to the public to offer them equally to all comers. Bizarre and repugnant ads in newspapers from Christian organisers have spread outright lies about what this law does. Their campaign, strongly supported by the Daily Mail, has whipped up a degree of homophobia still lurking under an apparently tolerant surface. The gay rights group Stonewall has been horrified at the resurgence of threats and obscene abuse. To make their case, the religious have struggled to think up extreme scenarios where the law might affect them, but each has proved to be wrong, as ministers have refuted them all. They claim the law will "force all schools to actively promote homosexual civil partnerships to children (from primary-school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage". No it won’t: the curriculum does not "actively promote" homosexuality, nor even make sex education compulsory. They claim the law will "force a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex". No it won’t, unless the same printers promote heterosexual porn too. Or how about this one? "Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even if the family think it in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their home." Oh no it won’t: it doesn’t even cover transsexuals – and what a daft scenario anyway. The National Secular Society has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. But on and on go the prurient situations the religious homophobes dream up. The Christian Concern for Our Nation, petitioning the Queen, claims they "love their neighbours", but "Christians, of course, earnestly desire the repentance and salvation of homosexuals".
Read the rest.
They had themselves a protest outside Parliament too. I couldn’t give a damn about the feelings of people who base their homophobia on their religion. If you claim to be offering services to the public, you have to accept that the public includes lesbian, gay and bisexual people, just as I have to accept that the public includes homophobic religious people. If you don’t want to offer services to the lesbian, gay and bisexual public then, in my humble opinion, you shouldn’t be offering services and you certainly should not be getting any public funding.
This homophobic backlash makes me even more concerned than I already was by the Government’s push to farm out more public social and educational services to faith-based organisations.