The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations are made under powers given by Equality Act 2006.
They legislate against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services (including within contractual terms of employment), education, access to public facilities and public functions, and emphasise the equal rights of all citizens of the United Kingdom.
Additionally, Section 15 commits religious adoption and fostering agencies to follow the Regulations and prohibits them from discriminating against applicants on the basis of sexual orientation.
Under the Section 81 and 82 of the Equality Act, powers are granted to the to the Secretary of State, the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland to make regulations regarding equality. Regulations legislated under section 81 relate to Great Britain and regulations legislated under section 82 relate to Northern Ireland.
The Equality Act 2006 already outlawed discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. However, it did not cover homophobic discrimination. To close these gaps in the law, members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons suggested amendments to make the bill comprehensive.
Regulations constituted under section 81 of the Equality Act 2006 took effect on 30th April 2007.
In section 35 of the Equality Act 2006, sexual orientation is defined as an “individual's sexual orientation towards persons of the same sex as him or her, persons of the opposite sex, or both.” Regulation 3 of this Act defines discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Regulation 3 (1) states that any individual who doesn’t get the same level of treatment as provided to others, and who is therefore treated less favourably, is a victim of direct discrimination.
Regulation 3 (2) states that indirect discrimination occurs when any individual applying in provision, criterion or practice experiences prejudice on the grounds of sexual orientation by putting him or her at disadvantage by not showing him or her a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.
Regulation 3 (4) states how to evaluate whether discrimination has taken place or not by comparing how two people have treated each other. The fact that one is a civil partner or is married does not make any material difference in the circumstances.
In regulation 3 (5), victimisation is defined as occurring where:
“a person receives less favourable treatment than another by reason of the fact that he has brought (or given evidence in or provided information in connection with) proceedings, made an allegation or otherwise done anything under or by reference to the Regulations, or because he intends to do so.”