Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland ) 2006.
Well, now we have it. In spite of huge Christian opposition, the Government chose to rush the SORs through Parliament last week. The Regulations will become law on Monday 30 April. The Government arranged an 11th hour vote in the House of Commons. The vote took place on Monday 19 March. MPs voted to approve the regulations by 310 to 100. The final vote on the regulations took place in the House of Lords two days later on Wednesday 21 March. In spite of powerful opposition, led by Lady O'Caithan, the Lords voted 166 to 120 in favour of the SORs. The regulations were passed with only a small majority of 46. They do not contain the exemptions for religious freedom that were demanded by Christians across the country.
What does the new law mean for Christians?
ƒƒƒ State and independent schools can be expected to give equal weight to heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles in the curriculum
ƒƒƒ Homosexual pupils or parents could sue their school on the content of the curriculum. Christians and other religious believers do not have this right. It will be easier for pupils or parents to do this in Northern Ireland where the 'harassment' offence has been introduced.
ƒƒƒ Government recommended homosexual texts, which are already on the shelves of some school libraries, could be forced on schools (eg Daddy's Roommate and Strange Boy. You can find the list of books recommended by the Government at http://www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/doc.php?docid=7707 - scroll down to the bottom of this page and access item 10 on the list.)
ƒƒƒ The National Union of Teachers (the NUT), the UK 's largest teachers' union, has demanded that even nurseries provide homosexual material to children as young as 3. It wants toddlers to read homosexual texts, alongside Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. The NUT wrote, 'It is particularly important to begin to make three to five-year-olds aware of the range of families that exist in the UK today; families with one mum, one mum and dad, two mums, two dads, grandparents, adoptive parents, guardians etc.' http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jul/06072505.html
ƒƒƒ Schools could be forced to teach about gay sex in sex education.
ƒƒƒ If homosexuality is promoted across the curriculum, parents indirectly lose the right to control their child's sex education (even if they can still withdraw them from specific sex education classes)
ƒƒƒ Christian teachers could face litigation or dismissal if they teach that homosexual relationships are wrongful and sinful.
ƒƒƒ Christian charitable organisations or other religious groups undertaking social or welfare work in the community, and which receive Government funding, will be forced to include homosexuals. This would include, for example, adoption agencies, local mum's and toddler's groups and youth groups. Any activities they undertake must not be discriminatory against homosexuals, so singing Christian songs or talking about the Bible could be outlawed.
ƒƒƒ The law will apply even if you are providing free goods or services. Even informal voluntary services, such as youth groups, mum's & toddlers groups, or coffee mornings, may be forced to include homosexuals.
ƒƒƒ A Christian hotel or B&B could be forced to offer a double bedroom to two homosexual men, or face closure;
ƒƒƒ A Christian old peoples' home could be closed down for refusing to accommodate gay or lesbian couples;
ƒƒƒ A Christian wedding photographer could face legal action for refusing to photograph a Civil Partnership ceremony.
Exemptions for religious organisations
ƒƒƒ Churches - or those acting for them - can discriminate against homosexuals, providing (1) this is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers, and (2) the church is not acting on a commercial basis. (Churches that are under contract with a public authority do not benefit from the exemption).
ƒƒƒ This means that, for example, churches or synagogues (that are not acting on a commercial basis and do not receive Government funding) can lawfully refuse membership, marriage, baptisms or other benefits to homosexuals. They can also deny access to facilities or activities to homosexuals.
The Regulations for England , Scotland and Wales are now called the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. The Regulations for NI are called the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland ) 2006.
ƒƒƒ The Regulations for England , Scotland and Wales do include an offence of 'harassment', unlike the equivalent regulations for NI. However, harassment will be introduced at some point in the future.
ƒƒƒ The Regulations create a civil offence. It will not be a criminal offence to break this law. This means that an individual or organisations can be sued for failure to comply with the law, but this will usually be a claim in civil courts for compensation, rather than a state prosecution. The Equality Commission can also get involved and investigate. You cannot be sent to jail simply for failing to comply with this law.
ƒƒƒ The Regulations only apply to people or organisations providing 'goods or services' - it will not apply to the ordinary man on the street expressing an opinion, although there are examples of the police trying to use existing public order offences for that.
ƒƒƒ The Regulations apply to all schools, including independent schools, regardless of whether the school has a religious ethos. The exemptions for religious organisations do not apply to faith schools.
ƒƒƒ The provisions on education apply to all areas of schooling - admissions, discipline and access to benefits. While there is no mention of the curriculum in the Regulations, there is also no exception for it, which means that homosexual groups can argue that it is covered. There is a glimmer of hope in section 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Regulations (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/draft/em/uksidem_9780110759203_en.pdf) The Explanatory Memorandum explains the law and may be used by the courts when interpreting the Regulations to see Parliament's intention at the time the Regulations were created. The Memorandum states that the SORs do not affect the subjects taught in schools. It goes on to say that the law does apply to the delivery of education (which would include the curriculum) but that teachers can still express views on sexual orientation based on their religious belief, provided this is done in an 'appropriate manner'. Of course, it is much better to have a clear exemption in the law itself.
ƒƒƒ The Regulations do not affect parents' existing rights to be consulted on sex education classes, or to withdraw their children from sex education classes. [Christian Congress for Traditional Values]