Gay campaigners have received an “early Christmas present” after a High Court judge in Belfast rejected pleas from Christian groups to postpone the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations next month.

The law, which protects LGBT people from discrimination in goods and services, will now be introduced in Northern Ireland in January 2007, followed by the rest of the UK in April.

However the judge did say he would consider the case in March 2007.

The Christian Institute has led calls to delay the Sexual Orientation Regulations, claiming they were rushed through and constitute an attack on freedom of conscience.

Mr Justice Deeny’s ruling means the law will now be introduced and will be safe at least until March when he has promised to hear the opposition views.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay charity Stonewall, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It really is an early Christmas, and late Chanukah present, for equality campaigners.”