Diversity Guide – Sexual Orientation

The Protected Characteristic of Sexual Orientation means: A person’s sexual orientation/attraction towards the same sex (lesbian or gay), the opposite sex (heterosexual) or to both sexes (bisexual).

It therefore applies to all people, including heterosexual people. But lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people are most at risk of prejudice and discrimination.

While sexual orientation may not appear to be relevant to the use of all Council services, these services are no less crucial to LGB people than anyone else. How well these services are provided and how sensitive they are to their needs and circumstances can have a huge bearing on the quality of life to many LGB people. Older LGB people are more likely to be dependent upon care services in later life due to lack of children/family support.

Some key points on how to be LGBT friendly:

Acknowledge same-sex relationships and give partners equal access to services and benefits available to heterosexual couples.

When asking questions about marital status also include civil partnership (as one question such as ‘are you married or in a civil partnership?’), however people should not be expected to classify either/or unless this is relevant (i.e. applying for a Civil Partnership Ceremony).

Only ask questions that may reveal marital/partnership status or sexual orientation if it is essential and do not force people to disclose such information. Where relevant, ‘spouse/partner’ should be used instead of just ‘spouse’ or just ‘husband/wife’. Information about sexual orientation may be collected as part of diversity monitoring as long as it is anonymous.

Encourage a culture of openness about sexual orientation, recognising at the same time that some staff may not be ‘out’ for family reasons, or for fear of how they may be treated, or may just choose not to be out, either at work or out of work. This is a legitimate personal choice which should be supported by our policies and practices. It does not need or invite justification.

Everyone should avoid the assumption that people are ‘heterosexual until forced to prove otherwise’.

Services should be delivered in a way that does not automatically assume or require identity of sexual orientation to members of staff (unless unavoidable because of the nature of the service, such as Civil Partnership ceremonies, or the individual has particular social needs).

Some LGB people may experience isolation or have low trust and confidence in services because of previous negative experiences and bi/ homo-phobia.

Sexual Orientation Equality Checklist

  • What steps can you take to ensure staff are ‘LGBT friendly’? For example, DCC has an LGBT Pledge for staff teams to sign.
  • Is use of language inclusive and not ‘heterosexist’ – such as reference to Civil Partners or partners rather than just spouse, or assuming a partner is of the opposite sex?
  • Is the fact that some LGB people are not ‘out’ respected? Is information about sexual orientation confidential/anonymous?
  • Are social/emotional needs taken into account – for example, whether a gay man in care has social contact with other gay men and how to overcome issues of rural or other isolation.
  • Whether everyone regardless or because of their sexual orientation, has equal access to the service or benefits? What evidence do you have?
  • Whether there are any barriers to participation e.g. low numbers compared to the population? What evidence do you have and what can you do to mitigate those barriers?
  • Other factors that are relevant to your service:

…what improvements can you make to any issues identified?

Also see our LGBT Toolkit for more information including service-specific guidance.