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Equality and diversity

Equality screening outcome report: Annual flying of the transgender flag on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Published in October 2021


Contents

Overview of the screening template
Section A Details about the policy or decision to be screened
1. Title or policy or decision to be screened
2. Brief description of policy or decision to be screened
3. Aims and objectives of policy or decision to be screened
4. Who will the policy or decision impact?
5. Are there linkages to other agencies or departments?
Section B Information on the consultation process
6. Outline consultation process planned or achieved
7. Available evidence
8. What is the likely impact on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories?
9. Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people in Section 75 equality categories?
10. To what extent is the policy likely to impact good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
11. Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?
Section C Consideration of Disability Duties
12. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people?
13.  Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life?
14.  Provide details of data on the impact of the policy with multiple identities
15. Monitoring arrangements
Section D
Formal record of screening decision
Screening assessment completed
Screening decision approved
Footnotes


Overview of screening template

The council has a statutory duty to screen. This includes our strategies, plans, policies, legislative developments; and new ways of working such as the introduction, change or end of an existing service, grant funding arrangement or facility. This screening template is designed to help departments consider the likely equality impacts of their proposed decisions on different groups of customers, service users, staff and visitors.    

Before carrying out an equality screening exercise it is important that you have received the necessary training first. To find out about the training needed or any other queries on screening, contact the Equality and Diversity Officer Lorraine Dennis on extension 6027 or or Lisa McKee on extension 6310 by email equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

The accompanying screening guidance note provides straightforward advice on how to carry out equality screening exercises. Detailed information about the Section 75 equality duties and what they mean in practice is available on the Equality Commission’s website.[1]

The screening template has four sections to complete. These are:

  • Section A  provides details about the policy or decision that is being screened
  • Section B gives information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts on all equality groups
  • Section C has four key questions in relation to obligations under the Disability Discrimination Order  
  • Section D is the formal record of the screening decision

Section A

Details about the policy or decision to be screened

1. Title of policy or decision to be screened

Annual Flying of the Transgender Flag on Transgender Day of Remembrance: 20 November 

2. Brief description of policy or decision to be screened

(Explain is this a new, revised or existing policy?  Are there financial, legislative or procurement implications?)

The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, at its meeting on 20 September 2019, agreed to support the motion to illuminate the City Hall in the colours of the Trans flag and to fly the transgender flag from dawn to dusk to coincide with the Transgender Day of Visibility every year on 31 March.

In addition Party Group Leaders at their meeting on 12 November 2020 agreed to fly the transgender flag on Transgender Day of Remembrance, 20 November 2020.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual observance on November 20 that honours the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. 

3. Aims and objectives of the policy or decision to be screened
(What is the policy trying to achieve?)

The notion was proposed by Councillor Flynn at Party Group Leaders meeting on 12 November 2021:

This council recognises the contribution that our transgender community makes to the city of Belfast and Northern Ireland. This council notes that many within the Trans community still suffer discrimination and that visibility of the community is a hugely important part of raising awareness and overcoming discrimination.

As a statement of our solidarity with the Trans community, members are asked to approve the flying the transgender flag over the City Hall from dawn to dusk on 20 November 2020 to coincide with Transgender Day of Remembrance.

As approval was granted for one year only by Party Group Leaders, permission is now sought for approval to fly this flag annually. 


4. Who will the policy or decision impact?

Consider the internal and external impacts (both actual or potential) and explain.
People Actual or potential impact
Staff Yes
Service users Yes
Other public sector organisations Yes
Voluntary, community groups and trade unions Yes
Others, please specify
 
Yes

The flying of the transgender flag may have an impact on different user groups as the flag will fly on the city hall, a prominent building in the capital city, Belfast


5. Are there linkages to other agencies or departments?

The flying of flags and demonstrations of support from different identity groups impact on different agencies and departments, including local and central government.


Section B

Information on the consultation process, supporting evidence gathered and has four key questions outlining the likely impacts for equality and good relations

6.  Outline consultation process planned or achieved

The council has benefitted from engagement and consultation with transgender groups in NI over a number of years, in its efforts to increase awareness of transgender issues both within in the council’s workforce and in general across the city. This has included the involvement of transgender groups and individuals in awareness and commemorative raising events, informative and promotional articles and communication and in the development of its Gender Identity Guidance for staff and managers.

In addition, consultation with key stakeholders was undertaken to inform a screening carried out on the Flying of the Rainbow Flag on Belfast Pride Day over City Hall. This equality screening was also informed by information from previous consultations, including 'City Hall: promoting a Good and Harmonious Environment' and 'Flying of the Union Flag' were utilised. A summary is outlined:

  • Consultation with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provided information in line with previously stated positions in their guidance notes, including:
    • Promoting a Good and Harmonious Working Environment (2009)
    • Equality Commission advice on Good Relations in Local Councils (2015)
    • Guidance Note on Section 75, Northern Ireland Act 1998 and Section 49A, Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (2015)
  • Community Relations Council considered the policy to be outside of the good relations grounds and therefore did not provide a response.
  • A meeting was held with the council network for LGBT+ staff and allies.
  • A legal opinion was provided encompassing previous legal opinions back to 2002.

The council’s LGBT+ staff network’s activity and the council’s LGBT+ action plan are in place to support all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff, increase awareness and ensure that Belfast City Council is a welcoming and inclusive employer. It should be noted that sexual orientation is a separate issue from gender identity. The sexual orientation of transgender individuals can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or any other sexual orientation, in similar ratios as the rest of society. Their sexual relationships may remain the same through the transition process, or they may change. 


7.  Available evidence

What evidence or information (both qualitative and quantitative) have you gathered to inform this policy?  Set out all evidence to help inform your screening assessment.

It is important to record information gathered from a variety of sources such as:

  • monitoring information
  • complaints
  • research surveys
  • consultation exercises from other public authorities
Section 75 category Details of evidence information and engagement
Religious belief

In terms of religion or religion brought up in, the 2011 Census indicates that 48.8 per cent of Belfast City residents are from a Catholic community background and 42.3 per cent from a Protestant community background.

Christianity remains the main religion, with religious diversity reflected through Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish communities.

Christians at Pride exists to provide a joyful, loving, inclusive Christian presence at Pride festivals in London and elsewhere in the UK, including Belfast, as noted through our internal staff network. Their website notes: ‘Whether you're young or old, catholic or evangelical, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, asexual, or straight, you'd be so welcome to come and join us. Supportive friends, allies, family members and church leaders all very welcome too’.

In the context of Northern Ireland, there are correlations between political, religious and racial background.

Political opinion

The results of May 2019 elections to Belfast City Council are shown in Table 1

In the context of Northern Ireland there are correlations between political, religious and racial background. Reports including ‘Flags towards a New Understanding’ (Bryan and Nolan, Institute of Irish Studies, 2016) and ‘Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review’ (Morrow et al, 2018) demonstrate the depth of complexity of political opinion and how it impacts on everyday life. The most salient points from the legal opinion in relation to political opinion are extracted:

  • The flying of flags at local government buildings is left to the discretion of the local authority as it is not regulated by legislation- the Flags (NI) Order 2000 and Flags Regulations (NI) 2000.  [paragraph 4]
  • The flying of flags at City Hall is a politically sensitive matter. On 3 December 2012, the council agreed to adopt a policy of flying the Union flag at City hall on designated days only. The policy follows the designated days set out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. That decision was an emotive one for the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community. Weekly processions and protests ensued in the city, often resulting in civil disorder. Whilst protests against that decision have become less frequent, it is understood minor protests do still take place. [paragraph 5]
  • The council does not have a policy which deals specifically with the flying of other flags, that is to say, flags other than the Union flag. The policy in that respect is that requests to fly a flag are considered by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on a case by case basis. Decisions of the committee are subject to ratification by the full council. [paragraph 6] 
  • In addition to the Union flag, the council also flies other flags on specified days:
    i) the Commonwealth flag on Commonwealth Day
    ii)  the Cross of St Patrick on St Patrick’s Day, and
    iii) the European flag on Europe Day.  The flying of these flags is provided for in the DCMS list of designated days. The Red Ensign of the Merchant Navy is also flown at City Hall annually on 3 September (Merchant Navy Day).  This was approved by the Policy and Resources Committee on 17 August 2001. The Armed Forces flag is flown annually on six days in the last week in June to coincide with Armed Forces Day.  That decision was made by the council on 9 August 2013. In all these cases, the flag is flown on the lower flag pole. [paragraph 7]
  • The decision of 9 August 2013 in relation to the Armed Forces flag is notable because it represents the only occasion, following the council’s decision on the Union flag in December 2012, where the council has agreed to fly a flag other than the Union flag. It is also notable in that it provides for a flag to be flown for a purpose other than to mark the constitutional status of the city. An equality screening report which was prepared to inform that decision.  It concluded that there would be no major impact on Section 75 categories and the policy was screened out without the need for an EQIA. Notably, the report observed the objectives of Armed Forces Day to be to:
    • "raise public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces; 
    • give the nation an opportunity to show support for the men and women who make up the  Armed Forces community (including currently serving troops, service families, veterans and cadets).” [paragraph 8]
  • Thus the flying of the Armed Forces flag demonstrates an occasion where a flag has been flown at City Hall to “show support” for a community and coincide with an organised festival or celebration. [paragraph 9]

A decision to fly the European Flag in support of European Heritage Open Days in September each year was made by delegated authority.

Racial group

According to Census 2011, 96.7 per cent of Belfast’s population is white. Just over three per cent of the Belfast population are from an ethnic background. As is the case in Northern Ireland, the largest minority ethnic groups in Belfast are the Chinese (0.7 per cent), Indian (0.7 per cent) and Asian (0.6 per cent) communities. The proportion of ethnic groups from a non-white background has increased in Belfast since the 2001 census (1.4 per cent).

While 95 per cent of Belfast’s population (aged three years old and over) have English as their main language, recent years have seen an increase in the number of migrants to the region and city, with 1.4 per cent of those aged three years old and over stating 'Other' as their main language and 1.2 per cent of those aged three years old and over having Polish as their main language.

In the context of Northern Ireland, there are correlations between political, religious and racial background. For example in relation to national identity, many Protestants identify as British and many Catholics identify as Irish. However, this is a complex correlation, as significant research into identity and race such as the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey demonstrates.

Age

Belfast has a lower percentage of young people (aged under 16 years old) and a lower percentage of older people (aged 60 years old and over) than the NI average. In 20116, 19.8 per cent of Belfast residents were under 16 years (compared with 20.9 per cent in NI as a whole) and 19.6 per cent were aged 60 and over (compared with 21.5 per cent in NI as a whole). The Belfast Agenda and Local Development Plan ambitions are putting programmes in place to support the growth of the city’s population, by an extra 66,000 people by 2035.

Marital status

A relatively high percentage of residents are single at 45 per cent compared with the NI average of 36.1 per cent. There is also a higher percentage of those who are separated and divorced (11.5 per cent), compared with the NI level of 9.4 per cent. Belfast also has a higher proportion of residents who are in a same sex civil partnership at 0.13 per cent, compared to 0.09 per cent regionally. There are fewer married people at 35.6 per cent compared with the NI average of 47.6 per cent.

Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland has been legal since 13 January 2020, following the enactment of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019.

‘The duty under Section 75(1) to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different sexual orientation is obviously engaged in these circumstances. It should be noted that so too is the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons of different political opinions. In McKay v Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance [1994] NI 103, a political opinion was defined as “an opinion relating to the policy of government and matters touching the government of the state” (Kelly LJ at p 117).  In Lee v Asher’s Baking Company Ltd [2018] UKSC 49, the Supreme Court accepted that support for gay marriage is a political opinion for the purpose of Fair Employment and Treatment Order. 

Sexual orientation

A request was also received from the Chair of the Belfast Pride Festival, requesting the flying of the Pride flag at City Hall:

‘For Belfast Pride 2019, we will have part of the original mile long Pride flag designed by artist Gilbert Baker for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, marked at New York Pride in 1994. We believe that the Pride flag flying from City Hall on Pride Day would complement this historic Pride flag leading the parade, further enhance what is now one the key city events and will be a further sign that Belfast is becoming the modern, progressive European city that the citizens of the city want it to be.’

Information on sexual orientation has not previously been collected in the census in Northern Ireland, however, a question on sexual orientation was included in the 2021 census, results of which are not yet available.  Stakeholder engagement demonstrated there is a strong user need for this information to inform policy development on both service planning and provision; and for monitoring purposes. The information gathered would provide a Northern Ireland-wide, definitive, baseline estimate of the population identifying as straight (heterosexual), gay or lesbian, and bisexual.

Other sources from 2017-2018 include the NI Continuous Household Survey and the NI Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey which estimate 97 to 98 per cent of the population identify as heterosexual with the remainder responding as gay, lesbian, bisexual or don’t know.

In its final regulatory impact assessment for the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the Department of Trade and Industry offered an estimate for the LGB population of the UK of between five and seven per cent. The Rainbow Project estimates that, on the basis of national and international research, one in ten people in Northern Ireland would not identify as being heterosexual.

According to ONS statistics, 2.0 per cent of the UK population identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2017. ONS report that 1.2 per cent of the NI population identify themselves as LGB. The council currently has no data specific to Belfast or its workforce. However the rainbow flag now flies annual above City Hall which has been broadly welcomed as support for the LGBT+Q community. 

Men and women generally

The most recent population estimate from NINIS the estimated population of Belfast Local Government District at 30 June 2017 was 340,220, of which 165,120 (48.5 per cent) were male and 175,100 (51.5 per cent) were female.

The publication of the Trans Data Position Paper by the Office of National Statistics in 2009 highlighted that the trans community, trans identities and gender identity matters have become more visible in society. There remains significant gaps in statistical data.

Stonewall’s current monitoring guide ‘Do Ask, Do Tell: Capturing data on sexual orientation and gender identity globally’ is aimed at monitoring employees and identifies key challenges on collecting data, including safety and appropriateness.

The correlation between gender and sexual orientation is complex with not all stakeholders agreeing on their assimilation under the banner of ‘LGBT’. The transgender community readily identify with the blue, pink and white flag.

Disability

The Census 2011 showed that 23.5 per cent of Belfast residents has a long term health problem or disability that limits their daily activities or the work they can do, compared with the NI average of 20.3 per cent.

Dependants

In Belfast, 30.4 per cent of households include dependent children, compared with the NI average of 36.5 per cent. In Belfast, 12.1 per cent of households consist of a lone parent and a dependent child or children, compared with the NI average of 9.1 per cent.

At the time of the Census, 12.3 per cent of people stated that they provided unpaid care to family, friends, neighbours or others; this is slightly higher than the NI average of 11.8 per cent

Table 1 Councillors from political parties elected to Belfast City Council in May 2019

Political party Total elected candidates
Sinn Féin 18
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 15
Alliance Party 10
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) 6
Green Party Northern Ireland 4
People Before Profit Alliance 3
Progressive Unionist Party of Northern Ireland 2
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) 2

8. What is the likely impact (indicate if the policy impact is positive or negative) on equality of opportunity for those affected by this policy, for each of the Section 75 equality categories? What is the level of impact?

Section 75 category Likely impact Level of impact
Religious belief

The information gathered, both qualitative and quantitative, demonstrates the complexity of some of the issues relating to protected characteristics listed under Section 75.

Whilst the flying of the transgender flag on Transgender Day or Transgender Remembrance Day would most obviously have a positive impact on those from a transgender background, it is recognised that many people do not identify with one protected characteristic at the exclusion of another. The information presented demonstrates the correlations between sexual orientation, gender and religion, both positive and negative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minor positive
Political opinion  Minor positive
Racial group 

Minor positive

Age Minor
Marital status Minor
Sexual orientation Minor
Men and women generally  Minor
Disability

Minor

 Dependants Minor

9.  Are there opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for people within the Section 75 equalities categories?

The 2012 equality impact assessment on the flying of the Union flag concluded that there was no evidence to show that the presence of the flag on a permanent basis restricted access to the City Hall or its grounds in any way or prevented anyone from accessing the services and events provided there and that there was therefore no adverse impact on equality of opportunity. In the 2013 screening of the flying of the Armed Forces' flag on a small number of days it was also considered not to have any impact on access to the City Hall and therefore on equality of opportunity.

Section 75 category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide reasons
Religious belief

This is not applicable

The information gathered, both qualitative and quantitative, demonstrates the inter-relationships between the protected characteristics listed under Section 75. No specific opportunities to better promote equality of opportunity for one particular group have been identified in relation to this policy.

However, it is important for the work undertaken in City Hall, including the exhibition and stained glass windows which represents diverse backgrounds in Belfast, and the recently opened Changing Places facility, to be promoted as symbols of the city of Belfast, which aims to be welcoming, safe, fair and inclusive for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Political opinion  This is not applicable
Racial group  This is not applicable
Age This is not applicable
Marital status This is not applicable
Sexual orientation This is not applicable
Men and women generally  This is not applicable
Disability This is not applicable
 Dependants This is not applicable

10. To what extent is the policy likely to impact (positive or negatively) on good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group? What is the level of impact? 

Good relations category Likely impact Level of impact
Religious belief

Good relations issues are conventionally understood to be between the two main communities in Belfast: Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist and, Catholic/Nationalist/Republican, including those from different racial backgrounds.

The group, Christians at Pride, exists to provide a joyful, loving, inclusive Christian presence at Pride festivals in London and elsewhere in the UK, including Belfast, as noted through our internal staff network. Its website notes: ‘Whether you're young or old, catholic or evangelical, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, asexual, or straight, you'd be so welcome to come and join us. Supportive friends, allies, family members and church leaders all very welcome too’.

Minor positive
Political opinion  Minor positive
Racial group Minor positive

11.  Are there opportunities to better promote good relations between people of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group?  

Good relations category If 'yes', provide details If 'no', provide details
Religious belief

The council ensures, as far as reasonably possible, that there is a balance between events and supportive action which are of relevance to the two main communities.

It should be noted that the transgender community will have multiple religious, political and racial identities. Hostile or violent incidents because of transgender identity are known as transphobic hate incidents. Raising awareness and visually supporting the transgender community in the city has the potential to help reduce transphobia, resulting hate crime and ultimately reduce the number of deaths caused by transphobic hate incidents.

The outcome of the council’s approach to an inclusive and diverse society may help address transphobic hate crime and counter any perceived impact. 

Minor positive
Political opinion  Minor positive
Racial group  Minor positive

Section C

Belfast City Council also has legislative obligations to meet under the Disability Discrimination Order. Questions 12 and 13 relate to these areas.

Consideration of Disability Duties

12. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity for the council to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people?

Explain your assessment in full

There are no opportunities within this current policy to better promote positive attitudes towards disabled people.


13. Does this proposed policy or decision provide an opportunity to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life?

Explain your assessment in full

There are no opportunities within this current policy to actively increase the participation by disabled people in public life.


14. Multiple identities

Provide details of data on the impact of the policy with multiple identities

The information gathered, both qualitative and quantitative, demonstrates the complexity of some of the issues relating to protected characteristics listed under Section 75. 

Whilst the flying of the transgender flag on TDOR Day would most obviously have a positive impact on transgender people, it is recognised that many people do not identify with one protected characteristic at the exclusion of another. 


15. Monitoring arrangements

Section 75 places a requirement the council to have equality monitoring arrangements in place:

  • to assess the impact of policies and services
  • to help identify barriers to fair participation
  • to better promote equality of opportunity

Section 75 places a requirement for the council to have equality monitoring arrangements in place in order to assess the impact of policies and services and to help identify barriers to fair participation and to better promote equality of opportunity.  

Outline what data you will collect in the future to monitor the impact of this policy or decision on equality, good relations and disability duties.

Equality Good Relations Disability Duties

Comments and complaints from various groups.

Comments and complaints from various groups. Comments and complaints from various groups.

Section D

Formal record of screening decision

Title of proposed policy or decision being screened

Flying of the transgender flag annually on Transgender Day of Remembrance 

I can confirm that the proposed policy or decision has been screened for:

  • equality of opportunity and good relations
  • disability duties
On the basis of the answers to the screening questions, I recommend that this policy or decision is
Screened in 
It is necessary to conduct an equality impact assessment
Not applicable

Screened out
It is not necessary to conduct an equality impact assessment (no impacts)

Yes
 

Screened out
Mitigating actions (minor impacts)

  • Provide a brief note to explain how this decision was reached
  • Explain what mitigating actions or policy changes will now be introduced

Raising awareness of the council’s approach to an inclusive and diverse society may counter any perceived negative impact.


Screening assessment completed by

Name:    Catherine Christy, Lisa McKee and Aisling Milliken 
Date:   22 September 2021
Department: 


Screening decision approved by

Name:  John Walsh
Date:  12 October 2021
Department: Legal and Civic Services


Please save the Word final version of the completed screening form and email to the Equality and Diversity Officer: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk  A link to this screening form will be provided to the council's Section 75 consultee.

For more information about equality screening, contact:

Lorraine Dennis or Lisa McKee
Equality and Diversity Unit
Belfast City Council
Belfast City Hall
Belfast
BT1 5GS
Telephone: 028 9027 0511
Email: equality@belfastcity.gov.uk

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Footnotes

[1] Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (link opens in new window)

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