The Equality Bill should not provide a basis for ’frivolous, vexatious naughtiness’.
Policy and Reform Minister Chris Thomas gave that assurance as the first 28 of some 160 or so clauses, including a string of amendments, were voted through by the House of Keys.
Backbencher Chris Robertshaw (Douglas East) said he wanted to ’throw up a cautionary note and a certain degree of concern’.
He said: ’I just hope and pray that our interpretation of the Equality Bill will be reasonable, fair and considered - rather than at any time, deliberately difficult and erring towards the extreme.’
Mr Robertshaw said the concept of harassment has become ’extraordinarily sensitive’ in UK universities where the concept of free speech has been ’warped and perverted’ into somehow being harassment.
Mr Thomas replied: ’I do believe there is a good will towards this, and this Bill is aimed to provide a legal basis to tackling discrimination and it is not providing a basis for frivolous, vexatious naughtiness.’
Earlier, Garff MHK Daphne Caine successfully moved an amendment that the term ’transsexual’, which she explained is now seen as being outdated, is replaced with ’transgender’, which she said is currently a more appropriate term.
And an amendment by Douglas East MHK Clare Bettison was also approved. This sought to give the same protections to asexuals as other larger minority groups.
She explained: ’Not experiencing sexual attraction to either sex is not a choice but a sexual orientation.
’I recognise people can struggle to understand the concept of someone having no sexual attraction to either sex, in the same way that historically people struggled to understand the concept of someone having sexual attraction to someone of the same sex.
’It is only eight years ago we discovered the lack of comprehension of a Member of this House regarding the transgender community. I believe we are a tolerant, inclusive island and it is vital that our laws reflect this.’
Mr Thomas said this would have no substantive effect in terms of the legislation and it was purely and simply whether or not the island should be ahead of UK law on this point.
The Minister cited various examples of different types of discrimination as dealt with by the Bill.
For example, it is discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment if an employer treats a transsexual person less favourably because of absences as part of their gender reassignment than other employees would be treated if they were absent due to sickness or other reasons.