You cannot fail to have noticed the LGBT movement in recent weeks. The Pride March in London, the major US Supreme Court decision to give same-sex couples the nationwide right to marry and social media sites, like Facebook, awash with rainbow tinted profile pictures.
Many may feel that this wave of support is long overdue and that prejudice towards a sector of society based on no more than their sexual orientation or gender identification has no place in a modern society. We smile indulgently, and nod approvingly at America ‘catching up’ with the rest of the modern thinking world and tut at the right wing conservatives who feel this kind of tolerance and acceptance is a threat to their religion and lifestyle.
This sense of British smugness may well be misplaced, however. Whilst Britain undoubted has some of the most comprehensive equality laws in place, there are undeniably loopholes.
The Equality Act 2010 prevents property owners and landlords from refusing to sell or rent properties (or tenants to sublet their properties) to people because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, but, if you are an owner occupier in a house-share, you can discriminate all you like, except on the grounds of race.
A professional landlord, although unable to discriminate itself, can still refuse a tenant a room under the ‘small premises’ exemption (depending on various factors), if the existing residents do not wish to share facilities with a certain person, who possesses characteristics that would usually be protected by the Act. Interestingly, that, again, does not apply to race.
Worse still, a tenant who had not disclosed the fact that they were lesbian, gay bi-sexual or trans-gender at the outset and that fact was later realised by the landlord or housemates, would have no right to bring a claim for discrimination should they be asked to leave because of that reason.
Does the argument: race isn’t a choice, you’re born that way, not apply equally to the LGBT community in this situation?
The flip side of the argument is that the loopholes are necessary to protect people in their own homes. For example, how do you tell a lone female, in a two bedroom flat, that she cannot discriminate against potential lodgers on the grounds of sex?
Fundamentally, in situations like these, it appears the law can only go so far in protecting minorities who are discriminated against. The rest has to be won in a war of hearts and minds. Just as the days of race segregation in the 60’s and 70s now seem like dark and distant attitudes of times gone by to most, attitudes towards LGBT issues continue to change and only time will tell if it can become an accepted norm.