Current Affairs

Gay rights more important than Christian ones, claims bishop

Tony Grew March 21, 2007
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A senior Church of England clergyman has complained that gay people’s rights take precedence over everyone else’s.

The Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt made his comments ahead of a vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations in the House of Lords later today.

Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, told BBC Radio:

“There are elements of these regulations which are contentious and do need very careful scrutiny.

“Because it looks to many of us as if at every point, where there is a serious tension between the human rights of different groups of people, and specifically the human rights of gay people – at every point gay rights trump everyone else’s and that’s really the fundamental problem of these regulations.”

The Sexual Orientation Regulations outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services.

Bishop Scott-Joynt was speaking after the regulations were approved by the House of Commons on Monday night by 310 votes to 100.

All three main parties support them, but many Tory MPs have complained that they were not given enough Parliamentary time to debate their implications.

Faith groups have claimed that schools will be covered by the regulations, and that they will be legally prevented from teaching pupils that homosexuality is sinful.

Peers have been lobbied by Christian activists who claim the regulations are an attack on conscience and religious freedom, asking them to vote down the new rules if the House of Lords has a vote on them this evening.

40 members of the General Synod, or ruling body, of the Church of England have written to all bishops urging them to go to the Lords and vote against the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

26 bishops and archbishops have seats in the Lords.

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.

Gay equality organisation 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 bishops and the fact that parties have less contol over Lords as they do over MPs, votes in the House of Lords are unpredictable.

Christian protesters are expected to hold a mock funeral in Parliament Square this afternoon to demonstrate their opposition to the new laws.

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