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Ensuring equality in local government


Good leadership is vital in ensuring equality measures affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is implemented properly in local government, research has shown.

A study by Diane Richardson, Professor of Sociology at Newcastle University, and Dr Surya Monro, from the University of Huddersfield, found equality policies were more likely to be taken forward in councils where leaders and senior managers took charge.

The researchers charted the progress of equality measures introduced into local government, including Newcastle City Council, following legislation which required authorities to develop policies specifically focused on sexual orientation.  They spoke to workers in local authorities across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Their work and findings will be used as the basis of a workshop in London, today (6 November), during the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science. Their book, which is based on the research they carried out, Sexuality, Equality and Diversity, published by Palgrave Macmillan, will be also be launched at the event.

Professor Richardson was the study’s principal investigator. She said: “Our research was carried out to find out what impact equality legislation has had on local authorities.
“Some of the findings were heartening – for example in Northern Ireland, a mayor played a key role in cutting down instances of hate crime. Others were dispiriting, for example one council didn’t want the words lesbian, gay or bisexual to appear in council documents and another didn’t want civil partnerships included in its births, deaths and marriages booklet.

“The workshop will look at our findings and ask people what happens next, particularly in light of the Government’s cuts. This is a particularly important issue for LBGT people as they are also susceptible to issues outside their control such as homophobia.”

The needs of bisexual and transgender people are also often overlooked, according to the study. Bisexuality is still largely hidden and carries social stigma. And there is still a lot of discrimination about transgender people.  Dr Monro said:  "For example, a transgender person using a public swimming pool was the object of complaints because she had visible scars.”

The research also looked at the difficulties of third gender, androgyne or 'gender-queer' people who may identify as being somewhere between male and female, or as entirely genderless. "Current legislation doesn’t cover these individuals who may be ridiculed,” said Dr Monro. “ In some cases they can't even get passports."

published on: 6 November 2012