On 8th April 2010 the Equality Bill passed its final vote in Parliament, becoming the Equality Act 2010. The EA 2010 aims to consolidate the previous raft of equality legislation and to “update, simplify and strengthen” the previous legislation. Most of the Act, about 90%, is already in force since 1st October 2010.
So what are the LGBT implications of the new Act? For a start all the old discrimination and equality legislation has been repealed, leaving just this act. For most LGBT people the main impact of the Act will be that in the future if you want to find out what your rights are and you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, rather than looking at lots of different acts you only have to reach for one – all 251 pages of it.
The other relevant section is section 202 which makes it possible to remove the express prohibition on religious civil partnership ceremonies, although a further Act of Parliament would be required for that to happen, and even after that the decision of whether or not to allow such ceremonies would be one for the religious venue concerned.
However if you are a transgender then this is not where the story ends for you – some of the provisions strengthen the previous law concerning transgenders. For a start the definition of “gender reassignment” has been changed. Legally, a transgender person is someone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process (or part of a process) to change his or her sex.
Because of this you will no longer have to be under medical supervision to be protected from discrimination or harassment. You are now protected from discrimination and harassment at school or by a public employee because you are transitioning or in the process of changing sex. Transvestites however are not protected under the act as they do not intend to fully change sex.
In addition, if you are the partner of a transgender you are also protected from discrimination and harassment if someone thinks you are a transgender by association, even if you are not. You are also now protected from indirect discrimination, in which a rule, policy or practice disproportionately disadvantages transgender and that rule, policy or practice cannot be objectively justified. Finally, you cannot be discriminated against as a guest or member of a private club – for example a golf club.
In terms of surgery, employers must treat time off work to undergo gender reassignment surgery as sick leave. If the time spent off work becomes an extended period then medical retirement can be considered as with any illness.
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