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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Stronger legal protections

LGB priorities and recommendations

What you need to know


Strengthening Legal Protections

The Commission recommends that strategic action is required to strengthen legal protections for LGB individuals. This includes action to:
  • reform sexual orientation equality law so as to ensure robust legislative protection for LGB individuals against discrimination and harassment, as well as to strengthen enforcement of the legislation;
  • introduce legislation provides heterosexual couples access to civil partnerships on the same basis as that available to same sex couples; and
  • extend the scope of adoption legislation so as to allow unmarried couples, those in civil partnership and same sex couples to apply to be considered as adoptive parents.

Strengthen Sexual orientation equality law

The Equality Commission is under a duty to keep the sexual orientation legislation under review and to make recommendations for change where necessary.

In summary, the Commission recommends that the sexual orientation legislation is amended to:

  • give stronger protection against sexual orientation harassment; including sexual orientation harassment of employees by clients or customers
  • ensure increased protection against sexual orientation discrimination and harassment by public bodies when carrying out their public functions
  • narrow the scope of the exemption for religious employers in order to ensure effective implementation of the Employment Framework Directive
  • expand the range of lawful positive action measures that employers, service providers and others can take
  • ensure greater protection under the sexual orientation equality legislation for individuals against victimisation
  • introduce protection against multiple discrimination
  • amend the enforcement mechanism for education complaints
  • increase protection for counsellors against sexual orientation discrimination or harassment
  • improve the powers of the Equality Commission to issue additional codes of practice and to enforce effectively the sexual orientation equality legislation
  • strengthen tribunal powers to ensure effective remedies for complainants bringing sexual orientation complaints and amend tribunal rules and procedures so as to remove barriers to LGB accessing their equality rights
  • remove barriers to LGB people accessing rights by, for example, extending the time limits for lodging discrimination complaints, introducing representative actions and the power for the Commission to bring complaints in its own name and empowering tribunals to make discretionary orders to restrict publicity in sensitive cases.
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