Religious groups gathered around Parliament today to protest against the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which will be debated in the House of Lords tonight.

Around 300 to 400 protesters attended the demonstration, carrying banners with the slogans: “Gay Aim = Abolish the Family” and “No to Gay Sex Lessons.”

Event organiser Phil Whealy told PinkNews.co.uk that the deomonstration was supported by people across the UK.

“This is not an anti-gay protest,” he said.

“Christians are tired of being insulted, persecuted and compared with extremists.”

He claimed that, apart from churches and religious groups, some secular organisations were also attending, although he refused to say who.

Protest organisers then barred PinkNews.co.uk from talking to or photographing the demonstrators.

The crowd was comprised primarily of middle aged and elderly people, although many of the protesters had brought their children with them and given them placards to hold.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, was at the protest.

He told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s regrettable that the Metropolitan Police were willing to allow placards bearing overt homophobia to be displayed.

“What was even more shocking was that a hundred small children had been dragged out of school and some were forced to carry anti-gay placards too.

“There’s no better evidence, as we at Stonewall have always said, that these protections are needed in our schools and that faith schools should not be exempt from them.

“We’ll be working during every minute between now and tonight’s vote to ensure that these protections are introduced.”

Protesters outside Parliament said that the new legislation forces schools to teach homosexual sex and relationships to children.

The government says that the purpose of the regulations is to prohibit discrimination, on the grounds of sexual orientation, in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including schools.

While this does not affect the national curriculum, the regulations will protect gay students from discrimination, so that they cannot be expelled or denied admission because of their or their parents’ sexual orientation.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk:

“If parents have concerns about materials being used they should discuss these with the school. But it is inaccurate to suggest that the regulations will require schools to promote gay rights or homosexuality in schools.”

Further protests are being planned for tonight.

The Lawyers’Christian Fellowship has called for a “prayer vigil” outside Parliament while the Lords vote on final submissions to the legislation.

The Lords are debating the regulations this evening.

A Tory peer has tabled an amendment designed to scupper the regulations for England, Wales and Scotland when they come to the House of Lords today.

Baroness O’Cathain’s amendment is likely to be put to a vote in the Lords.

Stonewall said they are continuing to lobby peers to support the regulations.

Given the large number of peers who sit as crossbenchers or independents, as well as the fact that parties have less contol over Lords as they do over MPs, votes in the House of Lords are unpredictable.