Gay adoption rules approved by House of Lords
The Sexual Orientation Regulations have been approved by the House of Lords and will become law on April 30th.
A motion by Tory peer Baroness O’Cathain seeking to strike down the regulations was defeated by 168 votes to 122.
They outlaw discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people when they access goods, services and facilities.
The Lords began their debate at 7.30pm, and were due to spend only 90 minutes discussing the regulations, but so many peers wanted to speak that the final vote was taken at 10.15pm.
“The government is rushing headlong into the incredibly sensitive area of a clash between gay rights and religious freedom and doing so by secondary legislation that does not allow for amendments and permits only very limited debate,” Baroness O’Cathain told peers.
She claimed that the new rules would end up with teachers and faith schools in court over teaching their beliefs.
Government minister Baroness Andrews told peers:
“This has been a long journey to us recognising the rights of people irrespective of sexual orientation. It is a historic step forward towards dignity, respect and fairness for all.”
There were strong feelings on all sides. Many peers spoke about the Roman Catholic church-run adoption agencies, and claimed that the regulations would force them to close.
The Archbishop of York spoke against the regulations, as did the Bishop of Winchester.
Labour peers said the new protections were needed given the discrimination gay people face every day.
Lord Chris Smith spoke of the humiliation of a gay couple being turned away from a bed and breakfast, and the reality of gay and lesbian people being removed from GP lists because of their sexuality.
In the most powerful speech of the evening, Lord Waheed Alli spoke of his father, a Muslim.
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The Koran openly says that Jews should be killed, he told peers. As a Muslim, if he truly believed that, then there should not be a law against it, according to the arguments of the bishops.
“The sight of children holding up homophobic placards outside the Lords seems a good argument for these regulations,” he told peers.
Christian activists staged a “prayer vigil” opposite the Houses of Parliament, but their stated wish for a miracle was not fulfilled.
Around 80 Conservative peers voted against the regulations, which will raise questions about the extent to which the party has become socially liberal under the leadership of David Cameron.
On Monday, Tory MPs forced a vote on the regulations in the Commons, and over 80 of them voted against, with Mr Cameron and 28 others voting in favour.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations will come into force in Scotland, Wales and England on 30th April.