Major new Equality Act becomes law despite opposition from Pope

12 April 2010 by

The Equality Act 2010 received royal assent on 8 April 2010. The Act aims to consolidate what until now has been a messy jigsaw of 116 pieces of legislation, and further harmonise UK law with the four key EU Equal Treatment Directives.

The Bill passed despite the unusual opposition from the Pope, who complained in February that it would run contrary to “natural law”. His comments were most likely directed at the effect of the new legislation on Catholic adoption agencies, making it more difficult for them to turn down gay couples. We previously posted on this topic in relation to the Catholic Care case, which resulted in a victory for a catholic adoption agency.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has welcomed the passing of the Bill, points out some of the key features:

  • Making the law easier to understand and implement by simplifying 116 pieces of equality legislation into a single Act for individuals, public authorities and private organisations.
  • Giving people the right not to be treated less favourably by public authorities because of their age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or transgender status; as well as their disability, gender, or race which were already covered.
  • Extending anti-age discrimination rules to include goods, facilities and services, thereby stopping people being unfairly refused insurance or medical treatments based on what age they are, for example.

The key sections of the Act will begin to come into force in October 2010 and will continue to do so until 2012.

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