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Discrimination when using public services

Protection from discrimination in public services

Since 2007, it has been illegal for providers of services to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity when providing public services. This legislation which was reinforced by the Equality Act 2010 means that LGBT people cannot be discriminated against by public service providers including:

  • Education (schools)
  • Healthcare
  • Council services
  • Social housing
  • Emergency services
  • Social services
  • Public transport

All organisations in the public sector are covered by the legislation. LGBT people pay taxes like everyone else, so service providers such as hospitals, GPs and schools are obliged to treat everyone equally. 

For example:

Education 

  • Schools cannot refuse to take a pupil because they or their parents are gay. Schools cannot deny gay pupils opportunities and facilities that they would offer to heterosexual students, for example, the chance to be head girl. There is no exemption for faith schools.
  • Schools cannot deny a lesbian, gay, bi or trans student opportunities and facilities that they would offer to heterosexual or cis (non-trans) students, for example, the chance to be head girl.
  • Schools must respect a student's gender identity. They should use their preferred pronouns and allow them to use the toilets and single sex facilities appropriate to the gender they identify with. 

Healthcare 

  • GPs cannot refuse a patient because they are gay, or refuse to offer then treatments that they would offer to other people.
  • Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people must be assessed fairly for the treatments they need.

Housing 

  • A housing agent cannot turn away a tenant or refuse to sell or rent their property to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Councils should act to tackle the homophobic abuse of a council tenant, just as they would act to tackle racist abuse

The Public Sector Equality Duty

Under the Equality Act, public authorities are also required to go further in promoting equality for LGBT people and take a proactive approach to tackling discrimination, under the 'Public Sector Equality Duty'.

Public authorities need to ensure they comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty. Under the duty all public bodies need to have due regard to:

(a) eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act

(b) advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it – for example, heterosexual people and gay or bi people, or trans people and cis people

(c) foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it

This means that public bodies must actively show they accommodate the needs of their LGBT service users in the design and delivery of public services like education, policing and housing. Public bodies will have to think in advance about the needs of different service users, involving and engaging local LGBT people, and set out what they’re doing to address those needs.