Fundamentalist Christians are preparing for a torchlight protest outside the Houses of Parliament this evening, designed to show their disapproval of new regulations to protect gay people from discrimination.
Christian Concern for Our Nation are organising the outdoor event, which will coincide with a debate in the House of Lords about the Sexual Orientation Regulations’ introduction in Northern Ireland at the start of this month.
The debate was secured by Lord Moira, a Northern Irish peer, who told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning that he wants the regulations overturned.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain introduced the SOR in the province on January 1st, in the face of oppoostion from Christian groups and Unionist politicians.
The regulations, which outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, are due to be introduced in England and Wales in April.
Joining Christian Concern tonight will be Muslim protestors, who have also denounced the regulations.
Dr Majid Katme, of the Islamic Medical Association, wrote to imans and supporters last week, asking them to join the protests at Westminster.
In the letter he described LGBT people as deviants, and implied that the new regulations, which are designed merely to outlaw discrimination, have some power over employment issues:
“[the new rules require] Muslims and Christian believers legally to accept and appoint homosexuals or anyone with any sexual deviation in our Muslim institutions and centres, mosques, schools, clubs, companies, hotels, business, shops etc,” he wrote.
Gay rights activists have accused the religious objectors of misrepresenting the scope of the regulations to pander to homophobia.
Ben Summerskill of gay rights organisation Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk, “These Christian groups are breaking the ninth commandment, namely ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’
“There is in the Northern Ireland regulations and will be in the England and Wales regulations an exemption on the grounds of doctrine.
“At exactly the same time parallel regulations will be coming into force protecting Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended, and the province is ruled directly from London.
Christian activists have secured a judicial review of how the SOR have been implemented at the High Court in Belfast.
The purpose of tonight’s House of Lords debate is to call on the government to withdraw the regulations from Northern Ireland.