A law already in force in Northern Ireland and set to come into effect in England and Wales has certain religious groups up in arms because they say it will force them to act against their religious beliefs. They’re planning a torchlit rally to oppose the law this evening in London: “The legislation, known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations, would ban discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexuality in a similar way to the rules on gender and race discrimination. It would mean that hotels could be prosecuted for refusing to provide rooms for gay couples, and parishes obliged to rent out halls for civil partnership receptions. In a twist to the new rules, gay bars would not be able to ban straight couples.
Barrister Thomas Cordrey, of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, told the BBC: “Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong. It is a fundamental matter of freedom of conscience.”
Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group Outrage, says that just isn’t the case: “People are still free to hold their beliefs, to live their lives according to their own morality and… their own religious beliefs. The law proposed does not change that one iota. All it does is extend to lesbian and gay people the same protection against discrimination as is already existing to protect women, black people and Christians, Jews, Muslims and other people of faith.”
In an editorial in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee calls it “a mighty test of strength between the religious and the secular” and notes that Christians have taken out ads in the Daily Mail that spread outright lies about what the law does in order to support their bigotry:
“They claim the law will ‘force all schools to actively promote homosexual civil partnerships to children (from primary-school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage’. No it won’t: the curriculum does not ‘actively promote’ homosexuality, nor even make sex education compulsory. They claim the law will ‘force a printing shop run by a Christian to print fliers promoting gay sex’. No it won’t, unless the same printers promote heterosexual porn too. Or how about this one? ‘Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even if the family think it in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their home.’ Oh no it won’t: it doesn’t even cover transsexuals – and what a daft scenario anyway. The National Secular Society has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. But on and on go the prurient situations the religious homophobes dream up. The Christian Concern for Our Nation, petitioning the Queen, claims they ‘love their neighbours’, but “Christians, of course, earnestly desire the repentance and salvation of homosexuals”.”
Sad to see that the only thing religions can ever seem to agree on is hating gays. The rally is to happen this evening at Parliament.