The government consultation on this legislation in Northern Ireland was based on this document (PDF – warning very large document, 2.6 Mb), and this questionnaire. It generated 373 responses, some of which can be found here, and this analysis of the responses (PDF – very small). The analysis is well worth reading.
The Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, issued this press release on 23 November:
Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland (EANI) today responded to new equality legislation designed to outlaw discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, services and facilities.
Responding to the new regulations Stephen Cave, General Secretary, said, ‘During this ‘Anti-homophobia Week’ Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland recognises that unfortunately homophobia can and does occur within faith based communities. We renounce any homophobia which manifests itself in terms of victimisation and abusive, demeaning or other violent attitudes and behaviour.’
Commenting on the details of the legislation he went on to say, ‘There are serious questions which must be addressed about the rushed nature of the consultation process and quick implementation of the regulations. However EANI acknowledges the work done by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in listening to the concerns of religious organisations and subsequently providing exemptions to ensure that core doctrinal beliefs are not undermined.
We also note the introduction to the legislation of a harassment clause offering those of different sexual orientation protection against violation of dignity or the creation of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In keeping with the spirit of laws against discrimination we would caution against any potential use of this legislation which would curb freedom of speech or curtail religious liberty in Northern Ireland. We would also hope that it will not be long until the same protection against harassment is afforded to people of faith across the community.’
The harassment clause mentioned, which as the analysis explains was requested by many who responded, reads as follows:
(3) A person (“A”) subjects another person (“B”) to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in these Regulations where, on the ground of sexual orientation, A engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of —
(a) violating B’s dignity; or
(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B
This needs to be read in conjunction with:
(4) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) or paragraph (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including, in particular, the perception of B, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.
Religious Exemption: for a comparison between the wording of these NI regulations and the text of the Equality Act part 2 relating to Religion and Belief, see this page.