Commission launches 'Beyond Tolerance: Making Sexual Orientation a Public Matter'

Commission launches report into discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people

12 October 2009

The Commission today launches a series of reports into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in Britain.

'Beyond Tolerance: Making Sexual Orientation a Public Matter' celebrates the considerable progress that has been made in tackling homophobia in the past 40 years, and sets out measures organisations could take to tackle the discrimination that persists.

Some of the considerable advances made to date include protecting people from dismissal from work on grounds of their sexual orientation, challenging homophobic bullying, civil partnerships and adoption by same sex couples.

Despite these legal advances in Britain, lesbian, gay and bisexual people still experience entrenched discrimination and disadvantage.  Among the most often cited examples were experiencing bullying and harassment at school and university, fear of living in some areas, and openly homophobic verbal and physical abuse.

New research* for the report found that some LGB people still don't feel they can be open about their sexual orientation without fear of prejudice or discrimination in key services and sectors, including the workplace and local health practices or hospitals, and particularly in schools, universities, colleges and police stations. This, combined with the fact that some LGB people have not, or would not consider jobs in the police force, teaching, armed services and manual trades, suggests that there is still some way to go in addressing homophobia.

The report suggests where organisations will need to focus in order to make the changes that are needed, looking specifically at the examples of education, employment, healthcare, and the criminal justice system.

A critical recommendation made in the report is to gather more data on sexual orientation. As this is virtually non-existent in Britain public policy decisions are being made based on assumptions about the size, location, or specific needs of the LGB population rather than facts.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the first public body in Britain with a mandate to protect, enforce and promote equality, reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination and build good relations for LGB people, as one of seven ‘protected’ groups along with age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, and gender reassignment.

The progress and the changes needed are explored in the report and in speeches given by Trevor Phillips, Chair ofthe Commission, and Commissioners Ben Summerskill OBE and Kay Carberry CBE at the launch event held today.

Find out more about Beyond Tolerance and download the reports.


For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

Notes to editors

*The Ellison and Gunstone (2009) study is unique in capturing a wide range of perspectives from over 5,000 online survey respondents, including 2,199 who currently identify as heterosexual/straight and 2,731 who currently identify as LGB. Survey respondents were recruited from a self-selected online research panel of around 235,000 adults in England, Wales and Scotland in a two-stage process

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.