EHRC: keep asking people about sexual orientation

The Government’s equality watchdog wants people to be questioned about their sexual orientation each time they visit hospital A&E departments, report crimes to the police, or respond to a major survey.

If the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) gets its way, people would regularly be asked if they are heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other.

The EHRC wants to collate the information into a giant database, which will allow checks on possible ‘inequality’.

The information will be available on the EHRC website but the EHRC says that it will not be possible to identify individuals.

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: “What possible right does the EHRC have to build this database, and then share what they’ve gathered with other people on their website?”

In a recent report, the EHRC states its goal to “make sexual orientation a public matter”.

It claims that until now gay lifestyles “have remained largely invisible”.

The report calls for “culture change” in which it becomes “the norm” to keep asking people about their sexual orientation.

It contrasts this “new and radical approach” with the traditional view that sexual orientation is “a private matter, not the business of wider society”.

The report acknowledges that many data collectors are “reluctant” to collect data on sexual orientation and “do not see the case for doing this”.

The Office of National Statistics has previously expressed significant concerns over introducing questions about sexuality into official surveys.

They cited “issues of privacy” as well as acceptability, accuracy and conceptual definitions.

The ONS is resisting calls by the EHRC to include questions on sexual orientation in the 2011 Census.

In 2007 ONS surveyed 4,000 people about their sexuality but then claimed that the results were “not a reliable estimate”.

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