Activists and politicians welcome Lords pro-gay vote
The final passage of new rules to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people has been welcomed by gay rights advocates.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, said they were delighted with the Lords vote.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services, were approved by the House of Lords last night.
Stonewall had intensively lobbied peers in the run up to last night’s vote.
“The vituperative and well-funded campaign to oppose these much-needed protections reached appalling depths of unpleasantness, as seen in Parliament Square yesterday.
“Small children of six, seven and eight were coerced into waving anti-gay placards. It has been a stark reminder of how much prejudice still exists in Britain and further evidence of the need for these new protections.
“We look forward to the implementation of the regulations. They will make a real difference to the lives of millions of lesbian and gay people in this country.”
Peter Tatchell of gay pressure group OutRage!, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“This vote is another nail in the coffin of homophobia. The defeat of the religious fundamentalists is a just reward for their deceitful scare-mongering campaign.
“It signals that the tide of parliamentary and public support is flowing strongly in favour of gay rights.
“We must never be complacent but we are certainly justified in celebrating this important victory.”
Fr Martin Reynolds of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement welcomed the Lords vote, but said he was distraught at the language used by some of his own fellow churchmen:
“We are devastated by the performance of the Anglican bishops in the House of Lords. We felt they argued against themselves. They seemed to have completely misunderstood the concept of human rights and Christian justice.
“We will be writing to the Bishop of Winchester and his boss, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to complain about his language. He said we were “less than” three times. I was distraught when I heard it.
“We think that his use of the word less verged on the less than human. We know that is what people will take from it and that is why this type of language is anathema to the church.”
A communiqué signed by all the primates of the Anglican communion in February 2005 declared the diminishment of gay and lesbian people to be anathema, the strongest form of sanction in Christianity.
Ruth Kelly, the Cabinet minister responsible for equality, welcomed the Lords vote.
“This is a major step forward in ensuring dignity, respect and fairness for all.
“These measures will help tackle the practical barriers and real, everyday problems faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
“It cannot be right in a decent, tolerant society that a shopkeeper or restaurant can refuse to serve a customer because they are gay.
“It cannot be right for a school to discriminate against a child because of their parents’ sexuality or not to take homophobic bullying as seriously as they should.”
Eleanor Laing, Conservative shadow spokesman on equality said:
“It is right that this important and sensitive matter should have been fully debated in the House of Lords, people have every right to express their concerns.
“I am pleased about the result of the vote, the vast majority of Members of both Houses of Parliament are in favour of anti-discrimination measures.”
Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, who has been at the forefront of campaigns against homophobic bullying in schools, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“I watched the debate with dismay at some of the remarks made by opponents of the regulations.
“I was also immensely impressed and inspired by the speeches of Lord Chris Smith and Lord Alli. The final result was clear enough and hopefully we can all now move on.”
The regulations proved controversial during their passage in Parliament.
Tory MPs in the House of Commons forced a vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations on Monday. However, the regulations passed by 310 votes to 100.
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29 Tory MPs voted in favour of the regulations, among them party leader David Cameron, and gay MPs Nick Herbert and Alan Duncan.
Last Thursday a group of Tory MPs attempted to block the Sexual Orientation Regulations at committee stage, arguing that they had not been given proper time to debate them.
Equality minister Meg Munn told the BBC: “It’s standard practice for debates on secondary legislation to take place in a delegated legislation committee.
“The timing and venue for the debate was agreed between all three main parties.”
The Lords vote last night means the Sexual Orientation Regulations will become law in England, Scotland and Wales on 30th April.
Regulations covering Northern Ireland have been in force since January.