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MEPs vote to boost EU equality laws

April 2, 2009 2:16 PM

MEPs have today voted to end the complicated jumble of EU equality laws by filling in gaps left by previous legislation which has left some groups with better protection against discrimination than others. But Tories refused to support the reform.

Everyone vulnerable to unfair treatment (on basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation) is already guaranteed protection at work. But only some are so far guaranteed equal treatment in fields such as accommodation, healthcare, education, banking, insurance etc. Uneven treatment is remedied in the new European law, although some of this has already been done in UK domestic legislation.

London Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford, the party's European justice & human rights spokeswoman said: "Today is an important day for equality across the EU. The present hotchpotch of laws is unacceptable in giving some people more rights than others and leaving loopholes open to exploitation."

"From now on, a pensioner denied an operation, a gay couple refused a hotel room, a disabled person barred from a flight or a Sikh unnecessarily obliged to remove a turban, will all have redress for wrongful second-class treatment throughout Europe. The Tory claim to be a modern party is shattered by their opposition to these anti-discrimination measures."

The new directive does not make EU states change their domestic laws on marriage or family. But in a report also voted today, MEPs call for EU action to make all countries give 'mutual recognition' to legal same-sex unions from other states, like UK civil partnerships.

Sarah Ludford commented: "There cannot be true equality until a gay couple from London can move to France or Italy and enjoy tax and inheritance rights as they would at home."