During the recent reception at 10 Downing Street in celebration of LGBT History Month I fell into conversation with a senior official from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and used the opportunity to relay the concerns being expressed by some transsexual people about the Bill's expected provisions. I followed this up by email as well.
Recently the senior civil servant responsible for this aspect of the Bill wrote to me with some specific assurances and, with permission, I've placed his comments below.
The Equality Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament very soon now so everyone will then be able to see exactly what it does and doesn't say.
Extract from GEO official's letter:-
Last year we published a comprehensive document on the content of the Equality Bill which also summarises the responses we received to the Discrimination Law Review consultation held in 2007. A copy of the response can be found at http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/EqBillGovResponse.pdf
In summary the main proposals which relate to gender reassignment are that we will in the Bill:
- provide protection against direct discrimination for people who associate with others who are planning to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment;
- provide protection against indirect discrimination for people who are planning to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment;
- provide protection against discrimination because of gender reassignment in the exercise of public functions; and
- change the definition of gender reassignment to make it clear that protection against discrimination on this ground is not dependant upon a person being under medical supervision.
Since the consultation response was launched, DCSF have subsequently announced they propose to use the Bill to extend gender reassignment protection to schools.
With regards to the use of perception we are aware of the difficulties of the practical application of the law with regard to discrimination on the ground of gender reassignment outside the workplace, which is not just for the Equality Bill but became an issue as soon as we introduced the Regulations that amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) in April 2008. We believe that education and practical guidance will have an important role to pay in this. Nevertheless, in drafting the Bill, we will be exploring to see if there is any way of increasing the clarity on the face of the legislation.