The bishops of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland have joined with Protestant churches in supporting a court challenge to discrimination legislation.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations were introduced in Northern Ireland in January, despite the objections of the main political party in the province, the DUP.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain used his powers to impose the legislation on Northern Ireland while the Assembly was suspended.

The Christian Institute, with the support of several churches, has obtained a judicial review of the way in which the consultation process about the regulations was conducted.

The process lasted six weeks, whereas in the rest of the UK it has taken six months.

Now the Roman Catholic bishops have come out in support of the legal review. The BBC reports that they are concerned that the law affords equal treatment to same-sex and heterosexual marriages.

Catholics believe that homosexuals are disordered.

In England and Scotland, the church failed to gain an exemption from the regulations for their adoption agencies. From the end of 2008 they will have to comply with the new rules, which outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services.

In the rest of the UK, the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations has been delayed because of the large number of submissions to the government.

The Department for Communities and Local Government have said they will become law in April.

The judicial review into the consultation process in Northern Ireland will be heard at the High Court in Belfast in June.