From October 2010, the Equality Act protects people against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation by businesses and public services. The new Act replaces the Sexual Orientation Regulations which came into force in April 2007. But your legal protections remain the same.
The legislation outlaws discrimination in a range of important areas, from hospitals to schools in the public sector and B&Bs to banking in the private sector.
All organisations in the public sector are covered by the legislation. Gay people pay taxes like everyone else, so service providers such as hospitals, GPs and schools are obliged to treat everyone equally.
The same goes for the private sector. It's now illegal for businesses including banks, estate agents, hotels and bars to turn away gay customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services.
The legislation is important for schools, lending support to Stonewall's Education for All campaign to tackle homophobic bullying. If a school fails to take anti-gay bullying seriously, they could be breaking the law. If a school refuses a place to someone because they might be gay, or because their parents are, that's covered too. So are things like the chance to be a prefect or participate in school trips.
GPs cannot turn you way for being gay - some did before - or refuse lesbian, gay or bisexual people treatments they would offer to anyone else.
Hotels and B&Bs cannot refuse double rooms to same-sex couples. If you want a double bed, you can have one.
In the past some councils have refused to recognise homophobic bullying as a good reason to re-house a person (or evict their neighbours). Now they have to act.
Stonewall has heard from couples who were refused tables together in a resturant, or were asked to leave simply for holding hands. Gay couples don't have to tolerate being treated any differently to anyone else.
If a flat or house is for sale or rent, the owner or landlord can't turn you down just because you're gay. They have before. Click here for more information on housing and the law.
What about gay businesses?
Gay businesses have nothing to fear from these laws. Gay people take straight friends to gay venues all the time and these new laws won't change that. Gay businesses, like any other, can still ask someone making a nuisance of themselves to leave.
Gay social and support groups
Many groups across Britain offer vital social and support services to gay people. It's recognised that they allow lesbian and gay people to meet up in a safe and supportive environment. Health services aimed towards lesbians, gay men and bisexuals can also continue. It's found that treatment can be more effective and more likely to be taken up when offered in a 'targeted' environment.
Religious organisations There've been demands in recent years for religious organisations to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. Stonewall's view, that we've emphasised to politicians, continues to be that any organisation in receipt of funding or subsidy from the public purse should not be able to discriminate. Religious groups providing publicly-funded welfare services to the community, like meals on wheels or drug rehabilitation have no more right to discriminate than anyone else. Religious services like weddings or baptisms are not covered by these laws.
Anybody applying to adopt or foster a child must be assessed in exactly the same way, using the same criteria. As it's lawful for gay people to adopt; whether they are single, in a civil partnership or not, adoption and fostering agencies cannot treat them any differently or use their sexual orientation as part of the assessment process. Their key concern should always be the welfare of any child they place and the ability of any applicant to provide a stable and happy home.