In the past LGB and T people had to put up with being turned away or treated unfairly by businesses and service providers simply because of their sexual orientation. Our campaign to secure legal protections against this was motivated by widespread evidence of discrimination across both the private and public sectors.
Our long-awaited 'goods and services' protections came into force on 30 April 2007, was a historic victory for Stonewall and others who campaigned for them. The Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 made a real difference to the everyday lives of millions of lesbian and gay people across Britain. These laws are now part of the Equality Act 2010
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. LGB and T people pay taxes like everyone else, so service providers such as hospitals, GPs and schools are obliged to treat everyone equally. A GP who refused to treat a man because he was gay would now be breaking the law, as would a hotel who refused to give a lesbian couple a double room.
The same goes for the private sector. It's now illegal for businesses including banks, estate agents, hotels and bars to turn away LGB and T customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services.
The new legislation will make a huge difference in 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 can no longer turn you away for being LGB or T - some did before - or refuse lesbian and gay people treatments they would offer to anyone else.
Hotels and B&Bs can no longer refuse double rooms to same-sex couples. If you want a double bed, you can have one.
Until now, 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, or were asked to leave simply for holding hands. Now same-sex 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 LGB or T. They have before. Click here for more information on housing and the Equality Act 2010.
Adoption agencies, including those run by faith groups, have to comply with the law like everyone else. It’s unlawful to refuse to consider lesbian or gay people, including couples, as potential adopters purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Gay businesses have nothing to fear from the new 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, whatever their sexual orientation.
Many groups across Britain offer vital social and support services to LGB and T people. These groups will continue to operate as they always have done - it's recognised that they allow people to meet up in a safe and supportive environment. Health services aimed towards lesbians or gay men 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.
There've been demands in the past for religious organisations to be exempted from the Equality Act. Stonewall's view, that we've repeatedly emphasised to politicians, has always been that any organisation who receives public funding 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 the laws. The Scottish Government's proposal to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples would also not affect religious organisation's who did not wish to carry out these ceremonies. Find out more about Stonewall Scotland's campaign for equal marriage.