The Equality Bill has been published today and seems to have had a lot of media coverage, mainly focusing on the social economic equality provisions and whether this marks a return to ‘old’ Labour. I suspect there is an internal leadership agenda going on with Harman (pictured left)continuing her positioning as the left of centre post Brown candidate but I also think she genuinely believes in this stuff. I’m still trying to get my head round the material relating to gender and sexuality.
The Bill has been published in a new format (it’s sort of beta legislation) and as someone used to navigating around legislation, I’m finding it a bit of a nightmare to flick through to what I want. That said, the incorporation of the explanatory notes should make it easier for the public and I’ll probably be praising it once I get used to things. Anyway, looking at the Bill (and trying to figure out what the hell it actually means in spite of the guidance) the only thing that strikes me so far is the continued categorisation of gender as one or the other (i.e. male or female). The Bill was an opportunity to move beyond the traditional binary notions of gender, particularly given the bill seems to have given some serious thinking to the issue of transgender.
For those worried about the sexuality and gender clauses (Stonewall has stated on its Facebook page that this is ‘the last piece of the jigsaw’) I think their worries may be sidelined. I suspect the real Parliamentary focus is going to be on the economic clauses. It also plays into the traditional narrative of Labour seeking to equalise the outcome and Tories focusing on equalising the opportunity. Whether that’s fair and accurate or not doesn’t really matter – it’s a simple and familiar message and I suspect the one that will dominate rather than peers getting worked up over us nasty homos again. Then again, the House of Lords does love the opportunity to use the word ‘buggery’ so I’m sure one or two will try and work it in somehow.