Despite lobbying by Christian groups in the UK, Britain’s parliament yesterday refused to scrap incoming gay rights legislation.

The decision paves the way for the Sexual Orientation Regulations bill, which would outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including education and housing.

On Tuesday night the House of Lords voted on a motion to repeal the legislation in Northern Ireland, where the laws went into effect on 1 January. The move failed by a majority of three to one, Reuters reported.

The legislation is now expected to be introduced in England, Wales and Scotland in April. It was meant to happen last year but was put off due to strong lobbying from the churches.

As the House of Lords sat, about 1,000 Christian protesters, who fear the new laws would require church groups to support homosexuality against their beliefs, staged a torch-lit demonstration outside parliament.

A group of Christian lawyers, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, organised the rally and also sent a petition reportedly signed by 10,000 people to the Queen, asking her to pressure the government to drop the laws.

Thomas Cordrey of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship said his group wasn’t homophobic.

Christians have no desire to discriminate unjustly on the grounds of sexual orientation, but they cannot and must not be forced to actively condone and promote sexual practices which the Bible teaches are wrong, Cordrey said.

Leaders from the Catholic and Anglican churches have condemned the laws, while Muslim and Jewish leaders have also expressed concerns.

A discussion paper on the legislation released by the government last year said the laws would help prevent discrimination against gays, lesbians and bisexuals in accessing hotel accommodation, bank loans, private clubs and in schools.

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