Equal Opportunity Act to be amended

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Photo courtesy Office of the Parliament. -
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Photo courtesy Office of the Parliament. -

The Equal Opportunity Commission is in discussion with the Attorney General's office to have the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) amended, Ian Roach, chairman of the commission told Newsday on Friday.

Scotiabank recently announced employees in same-sex relationships will be able to have their partners access to the same health insurance benefits as heterosexual common-law couples.

In response, Roach said he found that initiative encouraging.

"It is a good move on the part of the private sector and especially by the bank, who has a wide cross-section of employees. It is important that the others should follow suit, past what the law insists."

Currently, the Act explicitly excludes sexual orientation. Roach said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is open to "doing what needs to be done" to address the different "spectrums of discrimination" that are permitted under the act. However, he is not sure what language would be used to amend that flaw in the Act.

When asked if he thinks the Government would hesitate to amend the law because some groups in society still disapprove of homosexuality, he said: "In any type of leadership you have to lead, and lead clearly for the better of society.

"In any society there will always be people for and against something, then transformation changes the society and then the law catches up with itself."

He said society is moving past what the lawbooks permit, and that is a great change. People in the country, he said, recognise the humanity of others different from them and try to treat them equally and discriminated.

He cited Scotiabank's decision to grant same-sex partners health insurance, without being obligated to by law, is one such example of society changing before the law.

"We are very much encouraged by what is taking place and hope this necessary legislation will come into fruition."

Nirad Tiwari, CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), told Newsday he thought Scotiabank's health insurance policy was "great" and hopes other companies do the same.

"Amcham has been on record stating that we think the EOA should be expanded to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The chairman of the EOA has made the same call. This is an issue of fairness and equality."

He said any measures that brings the society closer to afford everyone the same level of equality are welcome.

"This is simply extending health benefits to people who are loved by the employees. We see nothing wrong with that. We congratulate Scotia and all other companies who have implemented means as these."


"Equal Opportunity Act to be amended"

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