Stonewall dismisses “Pyrrhic victory” for Christians
Gay equality organisation Stonewall said today that the ruling of the High Court in Belfast on the Sexual Orientation Regulations would not diminish the protections for LGB people in the UK.
Chief executive Ben Summerskill told PinkNews.co.uk:
“We are delighted that the court has upheld the regulations as they currently exist across the rest of Britain.”
Mr Justice Weatherup said that a provision which protects LGB people from harassment when accessing goods and services should be set aside.
The harassment provision is only in the Northern Ireland regulations and not those governing the rest of the UK.
Christians who provide goods and services will now be allowed to express their disapproval of LGB people, such as when a gay couple try to book a hotel room.
However, any gay, lesbian or bisexual person who is denied goods and services on the basis of their sexuality will be able to sue the provider for damages, the remedy laid out in the regulations.
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“It is a small Pyrrhic victory for the Christian fundamentalist organisations that a very small part of the regulations, that we are not convinced are actually needed, have been struck out on the basis they are not in place in the rest of the UK,” said Mr Summerskill.
The harassment provision was added to the NI regulations to match protection from discrimination provision across all groups in the province.
Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk that they took legal advice on harassment over the regulations in the rest of the UK and decided they were not necessary.
The organisation said that it had not come across a single case where harassment had occurred that would not be covered by existing laws.
Mr Summerskill said it was not surprising the judge said that the SORs do not affect the curriculum, as other legislation controls what is taught in schools.
“The judgement says that Christian fundamentalists have to abide by the law,” said Mr Summerskill.