No, there are different types of sexual orientation discrimination, and it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.
The main forms are:
Direct discrimination is where you are treated worse than others, on grounds of your sexual orientation. When a service provider:
- Refuses or deliberately fails to provide a service
- Provides a service of a lower quality, in a worse manner or on worse terms than is normally the case
For example: A same-sex couple is asked to leave a restaurant because they are holding hands and the restaurant manager says their behaviour is making other customers uncomfortable. Heterosexual couples who are holding hands are not asked to leave.
For example: A gay man rents an apartment from a private landlord. As part of the agreement, he is charged an extra annual fee on top of his rent for use of his parking space. Other tenants are not charged this extra fee.
Indirect discrimination is where a service provider unjustifiably operates a rule or policy that looks the same for everyone but in effect disadvantages people from your sexual orientation group.
For example: An insurance company refuses to provide its services to customers who have had an HIV test. This could amount to indirect sexual orientation discrimination as gay men may be perceived as more likely to have had such tests than heterosexual men, women and lesbians.
Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of sexual orientation discrimination or helped someone else make a complaint about a service provider under the sexual orientation law, and suffered as a result.
For example: A woman agrees to give evidence in a case being taken by a lesbian who has been repeatedly refused appointments at a health spa. When the woman next tries to make an appointment for herself, her request is refused by the manager who says that they don’t offer their services to troublemakers.
Harassment is not specifically included in the law, but you can make such a complaint under the direct discrimination provisions.
Over the past three years we have helped 220 people who have experienced some form of sexual orientation discrimination.
Individuals have raised issues such as:
Refusal of services
We recognise there is an under reporting of sexual orientation discrimination and have developed a dedicated presence on social media to raise awareness of rights and how to take action:
You are protected from sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of a wide range of services whether they are paid for or free of charge.
- Access to public places
- Facilities for education – admissions to schools / or discrimination against existing pupils or excluding pupils/students or subjecting them to any other detriment.
- Getting or using services such as:
– Financial services – Banking / Insurance
– Government departments
- Professional or trade services
However, there are very limited circumstances where sexual orientation discrimination is allowed. These relate to:
- the activities of religious organisations
- disposal and management of small premises
For example: The owner of a four bed-roomed detached house has converted two bedrooms into bed-sit accommodation for two people. As the owner continues to live in the house with their family, the house satisfies the laws definition of small premises.
- private clubs, associations and charities set up for people of a particular sexual orientation may be allowed to discriminate in some circumstances.
For example: A club is established to enable gay and bisexual men to form friendships and provide mutual support.
1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance to help you resolve your issue.
2. Raise your complaint directly with the service provider and seek a resolution.
3. If a resolution is not reached and you wish to take your case further we may be able to provide you with legal
representation. You must lodge your complaint of discrimination with the County Court.
NB: Only a County Court decides whether the treatment you have complained of is unlawful discrimination. It is separate to, and independent from, the Equality Commission.
If you require assistance or would like to make a discrimination complaint, complete our online form or telephone 028 90 500 600 (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri).