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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 15:27 GMT
Gay rights objectors lose action
Gay Pride march in Belfast
New gay rights legislation was challenged in court
Objectors to new sexual orientation regulations have lost a court action to stop them becoming law on New Year's Day.

The legislation, which will ban discrimination against homosexuals, is being challenged by the Christian Institute and a number of churches.

A High Court judge has refused to make an order postponing the introduction of the regulations.

However, he set a date in March for a full hearing.

It will examine the legislation and the Christian groups' contention that the government's six-week consultation period was too short.

A lawyer appearing for the Christian Institute and a number of churches asked Mr Justice Deeny to make an order postponing the introduction of the regulations.

'Fast-tracked consultation'

He said that in England and Wales, the government had put back the implementation of equivalent legislation.

He added: "In view of that it is very difficult for the government to argue there is a pressing need for this legislation in this jurisdiction at this time."

However, at Thursday's hearing the judge refused to grant the interim relief sought by the applicants and fixed 1 and 2 March as dates for the full hearing.

The objectors said the "fast-tracked" consultation period was just over six weeks compared to six months in the rest of the UK.

Callum Webster of the Christian Institute in Northern Ireland, said afterwards: "We are extremely disappointed that the government is pushing this law through in Northern Ireland without sufficient time for debate unlike the rest of the United Kingdom.

"We are looking forward to the full hearing in March when we hope to convince the court that these regulations should never have been made."




SEE ALSO
Assembly clashes over gay rights
11 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland



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