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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 15:39 GMT
Go ahead for gay rights challenge
Gay Pride march in Belfast
New gay rights legislation is to be challenged in court
The High Court has given leave for a group of Christian organisations to challenge new gay rights legislation.

Seven groups launched the legal action after it emerged that the laws would ban discrimination in the provision of goods and services to homosexuals.

Mr Justice Deeny granted leave to apply for a judicial review. The case will come before him later this week.

The groups which launched the legal action have claimed the consultation process into it was flawed.

'Too short'

Barrister David Scoffield, representing the seven Christian organisations, said the eight-week consultation process was too short, and should not have been conducted during the summer months.

He told Mr Justice Deeny it was improper for the office of the first minister and deputy first minister to make legislation which "discriminates on the grounds of religious belief".

The barrister said that similar regulations were proposed in England and Wales earlier this year but after much controversy, it was decided to extend the consultation process for a further six months as "further time was needed to consider complex issues".

Mr Scoffield added: "The whole thing smacks of an attempt by the Northern Ireland authorities to push through regulations that have been postponed in England and Wales due to further consultation."

Bernard McCloskey, acting on behalf of the office of the first minister and deputy first minister, told the hearing the applicants needed to establish whether there was a "legitimate expectation for consultation" regarding the proposed regulations.

The barrister added there was no legal obligation to consult such Christian organisations, branding their collective assertion as "merely threadbare".

Gay rights regulations challenged
15 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland
Assembly clashes over gay rights
11 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland

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