Until the law was changed in 2007, lesbian, gay and bisexual people had to put up with being turned away or treated unfairly by businesses and public service providers - simply because of their sexual orientation. Stonewall’s campaign to secure legal protections against this was motivated by widespread evidence of discrimination across both the private and public sectors.
Protections against 'goods and services' discrimination first came into force on 30 April 2007, an historic victory for Stonewall and others who campaigned for them.
If you need information on what to do if you have been discriminated against, please visit our information page on discrimination.
All organisations in the public sector are covered by the legislation. Gay people pay taxes like everyone else, so service providers like hospitals, GPs and schools are obliged to treat everyone equally. The GP who refused to treat a man just because he was gay would now be breaking the law.
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.
Here are some of the key areas where the laws will make a difference…
The Equality Act makes 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’t turn you way for being gay - some did in the past - 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.
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 refused tables together, or asked to leave by staff simply for holding hands. Gay couples don't have to tolerate being treated any differently to anyone else, it’s against the law.
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.
Gay businesses have nothing to fear from the Equality Act. Gay people take heterosexual friends to gay venues all the time and the law doesn’t change that. LGB businesses, like any other, can still ask someone making a nuisance of themselves to leave.
Many groups and networks across Britain offer vital social and support services to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These groups continue to operate as they always have done - it's recognised that they allow lesbian and gay 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. We're aware of the benefits this could have for Stonewall's current work on LGB health needs.
There've been demands in recent years for religious organisations to be exempted from anti-discrimination laws. Stonewall's view, that we've repeatedly emphasised to politicians, has always been 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 the Equality Act.
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.