May 22, 2007 / 11:07 PM / 13 years ago

Majority in poll back laws to protect gays

LONDON (Reuters) - The vast majority of Britons support new legislation to protect gays from discrimination and would not mind if a member of their family was homosexual, a survey showed on Wednesday.

Participants march alongside dancers, bands and floats in the streets during the gay Pride London Parade, in this July 3, 2004 file photo. The vast majority of Britons support new legislation to protect gays from discrimination and would not mind if a member of their family was homosexual, a survey showed on Wednesday. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

The survey, commissioned by gay rights group Stonewall, found 85 percent of those questioned were in favour of laws brought in last month making it illegal to refuse gay people services such as medical treatment or hotel rooms because of their sexual orientation.

The legislation, a cornerstone of government efforts to promote equal rights, had been fiercely opposed by some religious leaders who said it would threaten their freedom of conscience.

But the “Living Together” survey of just over 2,000 people painted a picture of growing tolerance in Britain, most respondents saying they wanted action to stop discrimination against gays.

Some 92 percent said they would be happy if a relative, their boss, or a footballer in the team they support was gay and three out of four said they would be comfortable if their child’s teacher was homosexual.

The survey also found that 88 percent would not mind if a member of the royal family was gay.

“We wanted to establish whether the shrill voices in modern Britain still opposing equality are actually representative,” said Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill.

“While a significant majority of Britons are clearly not prejudiced, as this polling demonstrates, their voices are often drowned out by a minority who are.”

Almost 90 percent of those surveyed also supported the introduction of a new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Labour government delayed the introduction of its anti-discrimination legislation while it considered a request by Roman Catholic adoption agencies for faith-based adoption agencies to be exempt from the new law.

But after a revolt by cabinet members and MPs, the government decided faith-based agencies would have to comply with the law.

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