[JURIST] Northern Ireland must abide by a gay rights bill that came into effect January 1 after the House of Lords voted Tuesday to keep the regulations in place. Lord Morrow opened debate [transcript] on the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 [text], a bill which prohibits businesses from withholding goods and services, including accommodation, from same-sex couples. The regulations were endorsed 199-68. Morrow and other critics argued that the bill violated the religious freedoms of Christian business-owners who will be forced to accommodate same-sex couples despite believing such relationships immoral. The regulations were passed last November.
The Equality Act 2006 [PDF text] will apply to England, Wales, and Scotland in April 2007. Christian opponents to the bill, who held a candlelight vigil outside the House of Lords during Tuesday's debate, have also petitioned Queen Elizabeth II to oppose the regulations [AP report]. The Independent has more.