Ruth Kelly – another equalities blunder

// 8 December 2006

When your equalities minister is fighting not to implement a ban on discrimination on the grounds of orientation, you know you’re in trouble.

Ruth Kelly has a bad history of blocking rather than championing reform in her post as equalities minister, but this takes the proverbial biscuit.

Presumably fed up with Kelly stalling over a ban on discrimination in provision of goods and services, Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain went ahead and introduced a full ban in his patch.

He has defied a call by Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality, to hold fire until a common approach has been agreed.

Allies of Ms Kelly have accused Mr Hain of pandering to Labour activists to enhance his prospects in the election for the party’s deputy leader next year. His liberal approach may derail sensitive negotiations between the Government and church leaders, who are urging ministers not to put the rights of gays above the rights of Christians. But gay rights campaigners are urging Ms Kelly to extend the Northern Ireland rules to the rest of the UK.

Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic, is sympathetic to pleas by the Anglican and Catholic churches, who claim that tough anti-discrimination laws could force their adoption agencies, youth and breakfast clubs to close, their bookshops could be sued if they refuse to stock gay literature and hotel owners with strong religious beliefs could be fined if they do not allow gay couples to share a room.

Yep, as predicted, Kelly is still being compromised by her religious views. Not that these views shouldn’t feed in to the debate, but they should not be put forward by an equalities minister – whose primary purpose is to advocate for not against anti-discrimination legislation.

You may notice that the almost only thing reported about Kelly since she took up the post is about what she is not doing. When will she get the boot?

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