Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sexual Orientation Regulations:

Latest update: House of Lords approve SORs for Northern Ireland, despite protest of 2,000 outside Parliament (9/1/07). See here for details.
See here for the Hermeneutic of Continuity's report of the rally, and commentary on the law.


Update:
there will be a debate in the House of Lords, Tuesday on 9th January 2007, on the Northern Ireland SORs, and probably no debate in the House of Commons.

Sign a petition to HM the Queen against the SORs here.

Sign a petition to the Prime Minister against the SORs here.
Please encourage others to sign.

From CCfoN:
1. It has been announced that there will be an hour long SOR debate in the
House of Lords (Tuesday 9th January 2007) to consider Lord Morrow's motion to
annul the Northern Ireland SORs. This is the first (and possibly only)
opportunity for Peers to have an open debate about the SORs, and, because it
currently looks unlikely that the House of Commons will have a full debate
themselves, it is the best opportunity for the flaws with the Regulations to be
discussed.


2. To coincide with the debate in the Lords (which is due to begin at
around 7:30pm) there will be a PETITION presented to the Queen during the
afternoon on the 9th January. PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND ENCOURAGE ALL THOSE
YOU KNOW TO SIGN IT. The petition is available at
www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/sorpetition.php .

3. Also set to coincide with the debate in the Lords will be a RALLY held
outside the Westminster Parliament from 5:30-8pm (we pray there will be a
simultaneous one held outside Stormont in Northern Ireland). We will be meeting
in Old Palace Yard, opposite the St Stephen's entrance. Please bring a torch.

THIS MAY BE THE ONLY OPPORTUNITY TO PUBLICLY DEMONSTRATE THE STRENGTH OF CHRISTIAN FEELING ABOUT THE NORTHERN IRELAND SORs. ALMOST EXACTLY A YEAR AGO THOUSANDS OF CHRISTIANS MADE THE EFFORT TO TRAVEL FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO STAND OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT, UNITED IN PRAYER AND ACTION AGAINST THE RELIGIOUS HATRED BILL. HOURS LATER THE BILL WAS DEFEATED BY 1 SINGLE VOTE. NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS REPORTED ON THE SOLIDARITY AND COMMITMENT OF SUCH A LARGE GROUP OF CHRISTIANS SINGING AND PRAYING TOGETHER.

THIS NEW RALLY IS THE OPPORTUNITY TO STAND UP FOR THE FREEDOM TO LIVE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE.

Please put the late afternoon/ early evening of 9th January in your diaries and
encourage all Christians to attend this important event.

4. In further excellent news, a High Court judge in Northern Ireland gave
permission to the Christian Institute to bring judicial review proceedings
challenging the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland SORs. On Thursday 21ST
December the judge decided not to suspend the Northern Ireland SORs whilst the
legal challenge is being heard. The full case will take place in the new year.

5. In another development, Ruth Kelly's department invited representatives
from the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship to meet with them today to "clarify what
the Regulations are not intended to cover". In the meeting, the Civil Servants
stated that no firm decisions had been made about the content of the
Regulations. This means that the continued constructive input of Christians to
the political process - explaining the reality of the dangers of the
Regulations should they come into force without adequate exemptions, is still
of great value.

The Civil Servants also wanted to emphasise that the Regulations would not
require Christian ministers to bless same-sex partnerships. However, they were
not prepared to firmly agree with the statement that 'these Regulations are not
intended to prevent faith schools promoting marriage without having to promote
civil partnerships' and it is of concern that they indicated that it was
unlikely there would be any exemptions protecting individuals on the grounds of
conscience. On the other hand, it was positive that the Civil Servants were
able to confirm that there was no intention to outlaw harassment on the grounds
of sexual orientation in the England, Wales and Scotland Regulations, even
though the Northern Ireland Regulations have done this.

6. It seems that there is also some good news from the House of Commons.
Although the prayer for annulment that was laid does not automatically lead to
a debate and vote on the issues, it has led to the constituting of a 'delegated
legislation committee' who will look into the matter. The committee will be
selected on the 10th January and will have a representative mix of Labour,
Conservative and Lib Dem MPs (the majority will be Labour). The Committee
itself is likely to meet during the week of the 15th January.

Previous Update: from Christian Concern for our Nation, 12/12/06:

1. Northern Ireland Assembly evenly split on the issue.
2. Cabinet split with Hain refusing to back down.
3. Lords Committee urges proper debate.
See here for full details.

Update:
from Christian Concern for our Nation

1. An independent Opinion Poll commissioned by the Lawyers' Christian
Fellowship has shown that a sizeable majority of the population are opposed to
the method and content of the Government's proposals regarding the SORs.

2. Motions to annul the Northern Ireland SORs have been laid in both the House of Common and the House of Lords. Though this is excellent news, unfortunately, it is only if the Government choose to give time to these motions to annul that they will be granted the time in Parliament to be debated or voted on at all. Please get your MP and any local Peers to support these motions (see template letter toMPs, below).

3. In another move by the Government which may link to the fast-tracking of the SORs, Ruth Kelly has just appointed the chief executive of the gay lobbying group Stonewall, as one of the 'Equality Commissioners' for the new 'Commission for Equality and Human Rights' (see link below). This is the body with far reaching powers which will ensure the SORs are fully implemented - it even has power to fund court cases to ensure compliance with the Regulations. No representative of any faith group has been appointed to the Commission.

4. The e-mail address supplied for Ruth Kelly in the last e-mail update we sent has since become obsolete. The correct address is PSRuthkelly@communities.gsi.gov.uk

5. We call on everyone who feels strongly about the above issues, and the information we have mentioned in recent e-mails regarding the SORs, to join with us to TELEPHONE the following people to urge them to recognise the level and momentum of concern about this issue (it is important that if you are going to call, you do so as soon as possible, at the least within the next week - there are only 10 days of the Parliamentary session left before the SORs come into force in Northern Ireland):

Fiona Walker 0207 215 6696 (She is the Civil Servant in charge of the SORs at the department for Women and Equality Unit; Nick Vanbenschoten 0207 215 6206 (He is Fiona Walker's deputy) Meg Munn 0207 2193000 (this is the Parliament switchboard: simply ask for Meg Munn MP's office) 0207 215 5000 (this is the Women and Equality Unit switchboard: ask to go through to Meg Munn). 0114 263 4004 (Meg Munn's constituency number). Meg Munn is one of the ministers in charge of the England, Wales and Scotland SORs. Ruth Kelly: 0207 944 3013 (Her department number) 0207 2193000 (this is the Parliament switchboard: simply ask
for Ruth Kelly MP's office) 0207944 4400 (this is the Communities and Local Government Department switchboard: ask for Ruth Kelly). Ruth Kelly is the minister with primary responsibility for the England, Wales and Scotland SORs. Peter Hain: 0207 2193000 (as above, ask for Peter Hain MP's office). 01639 630152 (His constituency number). Peter Hain is the minister in charge of the Northern Ireland SORs.

NB We apologise if any of these numbers do not work - telephone numbers in Parliament get altered very quickly as politicians move department, move office etc.

If you are unable to get through, please leave a message explaining the issue you are phoning about and asking for your call to be returned. Please use the letter we sent to all MPs and Peers as a basis for the points you wish to make. The letter can be accessed at
http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/sor/28nov6.php

Update: the Government's desperation to get the SORs into law is such that they are using a parliamentary mechanism (the 'negative resolution procedure') to avoid all debate and even the need for a vote, unless objections are made within forty days (of Friday 24th November). Peter Hain, the Minister for Northern Ireland, and MPs must be lobbied with special urgency: Email:hainp@parliament.uk

For full details see end of this post.

Current status: letters to MPs, please, urgently. Ruth Kelly has delayed the implementation of these regulations, because of the powerful response to the consultation. Now they are being imposed on Northern Ireland, often used as a test-bed for legislation, in a stringent form and with very little consultation. The likely effects of this legislation for Catholics is difficult to exagerate, and stopping them is a top priority. The Catholic press has highlighted the threat to Catholic adoption agencies, which would be forced to close by the requirement such agencies cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.

From Christian Concern for our Nation.
After the recent news that the Government were delaying the England, Wales and Scotland SORs by 6 months to deal with the 'difficult issues' which minister Ruth Kelly admitted had been highlighted by the response of faith groups to theconsultation, it was a shock to find that behind the scenes the Government are rushing through identical Regulations in Northern Ireland (NI) using theirdirect rule powers, while the Northern Ireland Assembly remains suspended.

The Government have already published the final version of the NI SORs and theyare expected to be put before Parliament for a vote in a matter of days - the Government have said they will be in force by January 1st. This means the NI Regulations which have received far less thought and consideration, will set a precedent for the England, Wales and Scotland SORs which are not due to come into force until April 2007.

To rush the NI law through without even waiting to respond to the many submissions received to the NI consultation is unjust and undemocratic. It is a tactic which appears to deliberately undermine the process of consultation that has gone on in England, Wales and Scotland. That the Government have done this in a place with such strong religious traditions and beliefs as Northern Ireland only worsens the situation.

Finally, the NI Regulations dramatically extend the law beyond the original proposals. The NI consultation expressly stated that no law on harassment would be brought in, and yet only 6 weeks later, the published final Regulations domake it illegal to harass someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. This is extremely concerning because the definition of harassment relies largely on the perception of the person who claims they were harassed: all they need do is allege that someone has 'violated their dignity' or that someone created a 'hostile or insulting environment' for them, and they can take legalaction.

With press coverage criticising the action of the Bovernment (see links below) and pressure building from MPs and faith groups, the call to Christians is clear: contact your MP to urge them to oppose any vote being held on the NI regulations until the SOPRs in England, Wales and Scotland have been finalised. The NI regulations should not be allowed to set an unworkable precedent for British law.

For the Christian Concern for our Nation 'Latest News', see here.
For the original post on the SORs, see here.
For the Telegraph report, see here.
For an interesting discussion on the TotalCatholic forum, see here.

Update: from Christian Concern for our Nation:
Critical developments in the situation regarding the SORs have taken place over the past few days. Having taken many people by surprise in publishing the Northern Ireland (NI) Regulations early, and before even responding to the consultation process that had taken place, the Government have now accelerated the process still further by rushing to lay the NI SORs before Parliament late last Friday (24th November).

The laying of the Regulations coincided with our discovery that the Government have chosen to use a special Parliamentary procedure to push the Regulations through WITH NO NEED FOR ANY DEBATE OR VOTE IN PARLIAMENT AT ALL. This 'negative resolution procedure' means that the mere elapsing of 40 days from the date of the Regulations being laid will see the SORs become law in Northern Ireland. This in turn will set a dangerous precedent for the England, Wales and Scotland SORs which are due to come into force in April 2007.

The only way the NI Regulations can now be amended and improved to deal with the current infringement of freedom of conscience and freedom to practice Christianity that they create, is 1) by the Government agreeing to withdraw and amend them or 2) a member of the House of Commons or House of Lords seeking an annulment of the SORs and sufficient time being granted by the Government for such a debate and vote to take place.

2 comments:

Londiniensis said...

Urgent! The link for the petition to HM The Queen does not work.

Webmaster said...

Sorry! Corrected now.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen