Ministers urged to stand firm against religious bigots

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date: 8 January 2007

embargo: 00.01hrs Tuesday 9 January 2007

The TUC has today (Tuesday) urged ministers to stand firm against calls from religious organisations who are pushing for a watering down of soon-to-be published regulations making it illegal for the providers of goods and services to discriminate against lesbians and gay men.

Later today there is to be a House of Lords debate called by Lord Morrow, who is seeking the annulment of the Northern Ireland goods and services regulations which came into force on 1 January 2007. Regulations covering the rest of the UK are due to be published this month.

The regulations are a result of extensive campaigning from unions and lesbians and gay pressure groups, prompting the Government to agree to amend the 2006 Equality Act so that businesses and organisations can no longer act in a homophobic manner.

Unions fear that last-minute lobbying from some religious groups could see the Government cave in and grant widespread exemptions under the regulations to religious organisations. There is concern that the law could allow any provider of services who has a religious objection to homosexuality to be exempted.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'No-one should be denied a room in a hotel or the right to adopt a child simply because of their sexual orientation. But this is exactly what some religious leaders believe should happen and they are pressurising the Government to continue to allow lesbians and gay men to be treated as second class citizens.

'The new regulations will put into place one of the final pieces of the legal jigsaw, giving lesbians and gay men the same rights as every other UK citizen. Everyone, regardless of their religious belief, should have to comply with the law of the land. The Government must stand firm against the religious bigots who want to continue discriminating against individuals solely because they are gay.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- The TUC has produced a background briefing on the goods and services regulations. 'No more hiding places for prejudice' is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-12827-f0.cfm

- Register for the TUC's press extranet : a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries: Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248; M: 07778 158175; E: media@tuc.org.uk

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