Christian Challenge after Bid to Halt Gay Rights Law Founders

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY

AN attempt to scrap controversial new gay rights laws failed last night.

The House of Lords voted by 199 to 68 to reject an appeal against the legislation, which bans discrimination against homosexuals.

It has been in force in Northern Ireland since the start of the year and will be introduced in England in April.

Religious campaigners in the province will now mount a legal challenge to the laws on the basis they infringe the human rights of those who hold objections to homosexuality.

The Christian Institute described the laws as 'a charter for suing Christians', while legal experts fear the rules may force schools to teach homosexual equality.

One of the country's most respected judges, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said the Sexual Orientation Regulations would mean teachers who tell pupils homosexual sex is wrong will be breaking the law. The former lord chancellor claimed schools that do so could be guilty of 'harassment' against gay pupils.

The main points in the legislation are: * Discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation become unlawful.

* It becomes unlawful to refuse to supply goods or services to someone on grounds of sexual orientation.

* This applies to anywhere open to the public, to hotels and boarding houses, banks, schools, restaurants, pubs, transport, and all professions, trades and public authorities.

* Schools, colleges and other educational establishments may not turn down or discriminate against pupils on grounds of sexual orientation.

* Religious groups may restrict membership and supply of goods and services - but not if the organisation concerned is mainly commercial. This means churches which charge for use of their facilities must let them to gay groups.

* Private clubs with more than 25 members may not refuse membership to someone on grounds of sexual orientation.

Christian groups say the rules would force churches to accept bookings from gay groups in their parish halls. …