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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 11:45 GMT
Head-to-head: Gay rights law
Angela Eagle and Lord Mackay, pictures by BBC and PA
Angela Eagle and Lord Mackay are divided over the law
Religious groups are to stage a protest calling for a halt to laws banning discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services.

These regulations - which have divided opinions - would mean hotels could be prosecuted for refusing to provide rooms for gay couples, just as gay bars would not be able to ban straight couples.

LORD MACKAY OF CLASHFERN

Former Tory Lord Chancellor

Sexual orientation is one thing - that's a tendency towards a particular type of sexual activity but practice is a different thing.

And I think these regulations, when you read them as a whole particularly in the light of the consultation paper, are intended to make the practice of homosexual activity something to which a person is not entitled to object if he or she is providing goods, facilities or services.

What they are saying is if you are offering services you must be prepared to allow people to practise actions that you believe are wrong.

It's not a question of being Christian on a Sunday and something else during the week because I'm a provider of goods or services
Lord Mackay

People who are sincere in their religion believe religion is for life and is a way of life.

It's not a question of being Christian on a Sunday and something else during the week because I'm a provider of goods or services.

If that's your religious belief, you wish to conduct your life in accordance with it.

I can well understand the equality point... but the point is these regulations are intended to go further than simply say you must not discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The government, when they consulted, said they were minded not to include harassment provisions.

They thought they were best dealt with later but in fact in spite of that they have put them in.

They are very difficult to understand but it could well mean that if you teach in a school, particularly in an advanced class, that homosexuality is wrong, you would be guilty of breaching these provisions.

These harassment provisions are dealing with a situation where a person of a homosexual tendency is feeling that his dignity is damaged and that he is left in an environment that is hostile.

ANGELA EAGLE

Labour MP and Equality Act campaigner

This is a very sensible and moderate proposal which seeks to protect people from unfair and unequal treatment and it gives to lesbians and gay people in Northern Ireland - and soon in the UK - exactly the same rights as were given in 1988 to protect people on the grounds of their religious beliefs.

We are not curtailing religious freedom.

People can argue against the practice of homosexuality, if they must, but I think it would be more honest for people who are objecting to say they wanted to abolish all equality law.

What this law does is say it is actually wrong to put a sign outside a pub or hotel saying 'No gays'.

I think that's a very British and very reasonable way of dealing with this
Angela Eagle

Actually, it's also wrong and illegal since the 1970s to put a sign outside a pub or hotel and say 'No blacks' or 'No catholics' or 'No protestants'.

We don't want to live in a society where people can say 'I don't like blacks and so they have to travel on the back of a bus.'

These protections are given to assist citizens in having equal access to goods, facilities or services, which is things like banking, entertainment and transport.

The provisions on harassment have a very stringent test which will be applied by the judiciary on reasonableness.

The judge has to look at what has happened if somebody takes a case and think that, in his or her opinion, it was direct harassment.

That is a very good protection to ensure you don't get into absurd positions but it does protect individuals from being harassed unreasonably.

I think that's a very British and very reasonable way of dealing with this.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Noisy protests as peers discuss legislation



SEE ALSO
Faith rally over gay rights law
09 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
Gay rights objectors lose action
21 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland
Gay rights regulations challenged
15 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland
Assembly clashes over gay rights
11 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland
Plans to end gay discrimination
29 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland



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