Law to Put Gay Rights Ahead of Religion
Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY
NEW gay rights laws will trump Christian beliefs on issues such as adoption, the Government confirmed yesterday.
Following a year of heated debate, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly published the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which aim to bring Britain in line with Europe on protecting homosexuals from discrimination.
For example, they will stop hoteliers barring gay couples from double rooms.
However, Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups have protested that the rules will force them to overturn long-held beliefs.
Roman Catholic leaders in particular warned that they would rather shut down their adoption agencies than allow gay couples to adopt children - one condition of the regulations.
The protests provoked a full-scale Cabinet row, with staunch Roman Catholic Miss Kelly and Tony Blair saying Catholics should still be allowed to put children up for adoption with heterosexual couples only.
Yesterday the Government made clear that this argument had been rejected - and gay rights will come first when the rules become law in less than two months.
The verdict said: 'The Government is clear that nobody should be required to act in a way that contravenes their core religious beliefs.
'However, where religious organisations enter into an agreement to provide social or welfare services to the wider community, on behalf of and under contract to a public authority, the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to have equal access to those services comes to the fore.' The regulations must be approved by the Commons and Lords before coming into force on April 30 but they are unlikely to meet widespread opposition.
Other concerns over the rules include that priests and vicars will have to carry out 'marriage' blessings for gay couples.
The regulations published yesterday state that churchmen will not be required to conduct civil partnership services.
But they include no provision to prevent gay couples going to court to demand blessing services.
The regulations will also apply to schools, although the Government gave assurances that they would not affect what is taught in lessons.
Colin Hart, of the Christian Institute think-tank, said: 'The Government has not accepted the concerns of religious groups. …