Gay and lesbian groups have welcomed the vote in the House of Lords last night which confirmed the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations in Northern Ireland.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association expressed their pleasure that a campaign of campaign of “distortion and exaggeration” had been defeated.

The House of Lords debate coincided with a protest of around 1,000 evangelical Christians and Muslims, who claimed the new regulations would force them to promote homosexuality.

GALHA’s secretary George Broadhead, in a statement to PinkNews.co.uk, said, “While we are very pleased that the Lords sent the Christian agitators packing on this occasion, they haven’t gone away.

“We should not forget that the Church of England and the Catholics have both opposed these regulations and continue to do so.

“The Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, has even tried to blackmail the government into dropping the regulations by threatening to withdraw welfare services operated by Church.

“The Church of England has made similar threats. It is these powerful institutions that will be exerting pressure on Ruth Kelly – but in the light of the big majority in the Lords, we hope that she will resist any further exemptions.”

The Lords voted 199 to 68 to uphold the Sexual Orientation Regulations, introduced in Northern Ireland on January 1.

They make it unlawful to discriminate against lesbian and gay people in the provision of services ranging from healthcare to hotel rooms.

Gay rights organisation Stonewall said they were delighted with the decision.

“This is the largest majority we’ve ever secured in the House of Lords and we’re delighted.

“The highly inflammatory and well-funded campaign to oppose these much-needed protections reached depths of unpleasantness which we haven’t seen for some years,” said chief executive Ben Summerskill.

“It has been a stark reminder of how much prejudice still exists in Britain.”

Tony Fenwick, of Schools OUT said, “What we have here is a growing war of attrition and we owe it to LGBT Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and the rest to keep the doors of debate open – rather than slamming them in each other’s faces.

“I have Muslim friends who have said to me that Allah preaches love and peace; and many – indeed most – Christians say the same of their God.

“It was reassuring to say the least that there was a Conference of Gay and Lesbian Muslims a few weekends ago; and it is equally reassuring that there is an LGBT Christians Conference in February next year.”

The Christian objectors to the Sexual Orientation Regulations in Northern Ireland will now concentrate their energies on a judicial review of the regulations that pressure group the Christian Institute have secured.

It will be heard in the High Court in Belfast in March.