We are responsible for legislation which protects lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination through the Equality Act 2010 and enables same-sex couples to formally register their partnership through the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Equality Act 2010 for lesbian, gay and bisexual people
It is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation when providing goods, facilities or services, in education, when selling or letting premises or when exercising public functions.
This means that a shopkeeper cannot refuse to serve someone because they are either gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. This discrimination was made illegal by the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and is replicated in the Equality Act 2010.
It is also illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees on the grounds of sexual orientation. For instance, you can’t refuse someone a job because of their sexual orientation (whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual) or treat them less favourably than you would treat an employee of a different sexual orientation.
There are exceptions for jobs where it is necessary to be of a particular sexual orientation. The workplace discrimination was made illegal by Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and is replicated in the Equality Act 2010.
Civil Partnership Act 2004
Civil partnership is a legal relationship, exclusively for same-sex couples and distinct from marriage, but giving them very similar rights and responsibilities.
Civil partnerships provide a legal framework within which same-sex couples may organise their joint lives, acknowledge their mutual responsibilities and manage their financial arrangements.
Civil partnership was made legal by the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Some same sex overseas relationships will automatically be considered as civil partnerships in the UK. There is a list of them at: Schedule 20. Not all of these countries recognise British civil partnerships in return.
Gender reassignment and the Equality Act 2010
Under the protected characteristic of 'gender reassignment', the Equality Act 2010 will provide protection for transsexual people from discrimination and harassment in various areas, such as work or the provision of goods and services.
A transsexual person is someone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process (or part of a process) to change his or her sex. For instance, a person who was born physically male and has decided to spend the rest of his life living as a woman would have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment for the purposes of the Act.
The Act does not require a person to be under medical supervision to be protected – so a woman who decides to live permanently as a man but does not consult a doctor or undergo any medical procedures would be protected.
You will be protected against discrimination and harassment by your employer or a service provider because you are a transsexual person. You will also be protected from discrimination and harassment, for example, by a teacher at school, by someone exercising a public function (such as policing), or by a private club.
You will also be protected from indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral rule, policy or practice particularly disadvantages transsexual people and cannot be justified.
Under the Act, it will continue to be unlawful discrimination to treat transsexual people less favourably for being absent from work for gender reassignment treatment than they would be treated if they were absent because they were ill or injured; or if they were absent for some other reason and it is not reasonable to be treated less well.
Gender Recognition Act 2004
The Gender Recognition Act, for the first time, allowed people to have their true gender recognised by law. The Act also safeguards privacy by banning authorities disclosing information about their gender reassignment.
The Ministry of Justice holds responsibility for the Gender Recognition Act.
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