Lords Defeat Attempt to Overturn Gay Rights Law ; POLITICS
Russell, Ben, The Independent (London, England)
Peers voted down attempts to quash groundbreaking new rules giving homosexual people rights against discrimination.
They backed the Northern Ireland Sexual Orientation Regulation by 199 votes to 68 last night, a majority of 131, despite vocal opposition from religious organisations.
But Christian groups declared that legal action against new laws extending gay rights would go ahead, regardless of the vote.
The Christian Institute and a group of Christian denominations in Northern Ireland are challenging the sexual orientation regulations which outlaw discrimination against same-sex couples .
The vote came after an impassioned debate lasting more than two hours. Critics said the regulations would undermine religious freedoms, and leave the faithful at risk of legal action if they quoted biblical teaching on homosexuality or if Christian guesthouse owners refused to allow same-sex couples to share a bedroom.
Hundreds of people staged a torchlit protest outside Parliament against the rules last night as peers debated an attempt to quash the rules, which came into force in Northern Ireland at the start of the year. Regulations covering the rest of the UK are expected to come into force in April.
The regulations have been delayed in the rest of the UK amid claims by religious groups that they will promote gay rights contrary to their beliefs and penalise those who have moral objections to homosexuality. But gay rights activists insist the campaign against the regulations is being orchestrated by "fringe groups", and have warned against any attempt to water down the rules when they are introduced across Britain.
Opening last night's debate, Lord Morrow, the Democratic Unionist peer, said: "Regulations are supposed to be non controversial. …