MPs reject faith-based ‘opt out’ for gay adoption

MPs last night approved the sexual orientation regulations, voting to outlaw discrimination against gay people by business and service providers.

The regulations, set out by a committee last week, were passed 310 to 100 with a majority of 210.

MPs thereby voted to deny an ‘opt out’ for religious groups from the anti-discrimination legislation. Catholic adoption agencies warn they will be forced to close agencies, rather than place children with homosexual couples.

Opposition MPs criticised the passage of the bill, claiming there has been insufficient Commons debate.

Ann Widdecombe said there had been an “almost unprecedented shortness of time” between the bill being introduced and brought into the Commons. The government is moving with “extreme and unseemly haste” she criticised last night.

The regulations, which form part of the Equality Act, were approved by a committee last week, as is allowed for secondary legislation.

However, equalities minister Meg Munn, who defended the manner of the bill’s passing, was criticised for allegedly blocking debate. Conservative members of the 16-strong committee claim they were given just 17 hours notice of the hearing.

Conservative peers will launch a last minute attempt to block the regulations in the House of Lords tomorrow.

Peers cannot amend the regulations but will be asked to approve or reject them in full. Conservative peer Baroness O’Cathain will propose the house rejects the regulations “having regard to the widespread concerns that the draft regulations compromise religious liberty and will result in litigation over the content of classroom teaching, and having regard to the legality of the equivalent regulations for Northern Ireland”.

If the government succeeds in gaining approval for the regulations, faith groups will have a 21-month transition period from April before the rules come into force.