Teachers in Ireland will no longer be subject to discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity after the Irish parliament has just approved a bill that bans religious schools and hospitals from discriminating against LGBT individuals. The new bill amends Ireland’s Employment Equality Act and will now head to President Michael Higgins’ office for signing into law.
Sandra Irwin-Gowran, the director of education policy for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), expressed her contentment about the bill’s approval, which she considers a huge victory for the LGBT community:
“This bill is the key piece of the legislative map that will allow LGBT people to be themselves, get married, and have a family without a threat to their job if they work in a religious-run institution,” she said according to Yahoo News and Take Part.
Sandra Irwin-Gowran said that the previous Act will no longer cast its ‘chilling effect’ on LGBT teachers in religious schools, Dawn Ennis reports for the Advocate. The bill has far-reaching implications beyond gender and sexual discrimination, Irwin-Gowran says. It can mark the onset for comprehensive cultural change in schools where love and acceptance are nurtured and strengthened.
The new bill gives employees of religious schools the reassurance that they will not be laid off or discriminated against in other ways should they decide to make their gender identity or sexual orientation known to their employers. Jean Ann Esselink writes for The New Civil Right Movement that it:
“Seems like a wonderful time to be Irish.”
Previously, through the Section 3 of the Employment Equality Act of Ireland, schools and hospitals could legally prevent employees from diminishing the ‘religious ethos’ of an organization by firing them. As a result, many teachers were robbed of their right to a promotion or a raise or have been forced to keep their gender identity a secret. In many cases, LGBT people would receive official warnings regarding their sexual orientation and choices or would not be eligible teacher job candidates because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The new bill supports LGBT people who want to work in hospitals and Catholic and other religious schools in Ireland — a big step in a country where about nine in ten schools have religious ties, Yahoo News says.
Despite the bill being welcome news for the LGBT community working in schools and hospitals, Gowran said that more work is necessary so that trans and people not affiliated with a religion can enjoy the same rights in privately funded, religious schools.
In May 2015, Ireland was the first country in the world to make same-sex marriage legal through a public vote. The first same-sex couples were married in Ireland in November. The new bill also protects single parents and divorced individuals.
Unlike teachers in Ireland, LGBT educators in Catholic schools in the US still face discrimination over their sexual orientation and gender identity. Teachers are discriminated against when applying for jobs or fired when they come out in schools in California, Washington, Nebraska and other states, Yahoo News reports.