Equality law protections extended to religious-run schools and hospitals

Leinster HouseThe Oireachtas has approved legislation that extends equality law protections for LGBT teachers to schools and institutions run by the Catholic Church.

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which has passed all legislative stages, scraps Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Act, which exempts the promotion of “certain religious values” from the legal definition of discrimination.

The section applies to “religious, educational or medical” institutions which are “under the direction or control of a body established for religious purposes”.

The move to amend the Act is principally aimed at protecting staff at denominational schools which receive state funding, though hospitals and other institutions are also affected.

Sandra Iwrin-Gowran, director of education policy at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), said the new legislation “is the key piece of the legislative map that will allow LGBT people to be themselves, get married and have a family without a threat to their job if they work in a religious run institution”.

A spokesperson for the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation LGBT Group added: “This new legislation protects teachers in these areas from discrimination and it provides a new space for gay teachers to become part of the communities in which they work and live for the first time.”

The bill is due to be signed into law shortly.