New laws protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination when accessing goods and services will come into force at the end of next month.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations will be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before they can be implemented.
The regulations were published by the government yesterday after months of political argument.
A “grace” period for adoption agencies run by the Roman Catholic church has been written into the regulations.
Tony Blair and Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly caused outrage among Labour MPs and a Cabinet row when they attempted to secure a permanent opt-out from the regulations for Catholic adoption agencies.
Tony Blair said yesterday:
“I welcome the publication of these regulations which demonstrate our commitment to further tackle discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
“I am proud of what this Labour government has done to ensure equality for lesbian and gay people. I know there is more to do but today is another major step forward.”
Catholic adoption agencies have until the end of 2008 to comply with the new laws.
As expected, the regulations provide protection for faith groups.
Churches and other religious communities will be able to choose who can be a member of their church and what use their facilities are put to.
Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell told PinkNews.co.uk that he was pleased that the Roman Catholic church had not been granted an exemption.
“We made it quite clear that we were not going to be party to any dilution of the regulations,” he said.
New regulations protecting people from discrimination when accessing goods and services on the grounds of religion or belief will also come into force on 30th April.