Christian groups in the United Kingdom are lobbying the Queen and the government to overturn new legislation that would outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including education and housing.

Church groups fear they will be forced to support homosexuality against their beliefs.

A group of Christian lawyers, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, is calling on the Queen to intervene and put pressure on prime minister Tony Blair to drop the Sexual Orientation Regulations bill.

The organisation plans to send the Queen a petition, which appears on their website, stating the legislation is a serious affront to the Gospel and to the freedom of religion. It said Christians would be forced to support the view that homosexual relationships are equivalent in worth and moral standing to heterosexual relationships.

The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship also plans to hold a torch-lit rally outside parliament on the night of Tuesday 9 January, when the House of Lords is expected to debate the legislation.

Meanwhile the Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, Vincent Nichols, attacked the government for what he called the imposition of its moral agenda on the church, British newspaper The Observer reported. Other Catholic leaders said they would close their adoption agencies rather than be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children, reported.

The Observer also reported the Anglican bishop of Rochester, the Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said church-based charities would be forced to close their doors if the government insisted they let in gay people. It is the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers, Nazir-Ali said.

However, some predict the legislation will exempt churches and charities from the new laws.

The legislation was due to be made law in October 2006, but was put off due to strong lobbying from the churches. The government now intends to bring it into force in April 2007.

A discussion paper on the legislation issued last year said it hoped to prevent discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals in accessing hotel accommodation, bank loans, private clubs and in schools.

In related news, Britain’s Royal Air Force is actively seeking to recruit more gay and lesbian staff as it tries to solve a recruitment shortfall.

The Air Force has sought advice from gay rights group Stonewall and will spend tens of thousands advertising in the gay press, London’s Daily Telegraph reported.

The UK government was forced to reverse a ban on gay recruits in the armed forces in 2000 after a European Court of Human Rights ruling.

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