Mayor Ken Livingstone has hailed the decision by the Sandals holiday company to end its policy of disallowing same sex couples from booking holidays at some of its resorts. The company’s advertising carries the strapline ‘mixed sex couples only’.
The decision follows a long legal battle with the company over advertising on the London Underground and taxis, and London Buses’ rejection of Sandals advertising on bus shelters. Adverts from the company have been banned from the London Underground for more than a year, because TfL and the Mayor ruled that they discriminated against lesbians and gay men.
Following the ban, Sandals offered to change the ads. This move was rejected on the grounds that the objection was to the discriminatory policy of the company not merely the adverts. Following a recent change in guidelines for ads on taxis, the holiday giant faced having its adverts removed from the capital’s fleet of black cabs. Sandals has now announced that it will now accept bookings from lesbian and gay couples at the resorts in question.
Speaking today the Mayor said: "After receiving complaints from the lesbian and gay pressure group Stonewall, I removed the ads on the Underground more than a year ago because they discriminate against lesbian and gay couples. I also began a process to remove the ads from London taxis, in spite of challenges by Sandals lawyers and lengthy legal discussions. We made clear that no amount of legal threats were going to change our policy.
"We now have an outcome that is a big step forward for equal rights. It shows that public authorities, which offer advertising like on the London Transport system, have the power to persuade companies that it really is not in their interests to discriminate. I hope any other companies practising this kind of discrimination will think long and hard and change their policies.’
The move was hailed by Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group. Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive at Stonewall, said the group "welcomes Sandal’s decision to stop discriminating against lesbians and gay men, which is long overdue"
Speaking of the Mayor’s role in securing a positive outcome Mr Summerskill said "Stonewall welcomes the steps that Ken Livingstone has taken which have helped apply pressure to get this ban lifted."