Today’s Observer has a front-page lead story by Gaby Hinsliff, political editor, entitled Cabinet split over new rights for gays.
According to the Observer:
The cabinet is in open warfare over new gay rights legislation after Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, who is a devout Catholic, blocked the plans following protests from religious organisations.
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was so angry with the move that he wrote a letter to Kelly three weeks ago, telling her that the new rights should not be watered down.
The battle between what is being dubbed the government’s ‘Catholic tendency’ and their more liberal colleagues centres on proposals to stop schools, companies and other agencies refusing services to people purely because of their sexuality…
This confirms what I said last June in my Church Times article:
It is hard to see how the differences might be resolved, when the [Archbishops’] Council is asking for a wholesale exemption, and the Government is seeking to limit the Church’s protection from the law.
For more background links, see also here.
What the Observer article does not make clear is that the delay applies to two separate sets of regulations. Not only has the government delayed the publication of any proposed regulations relating to sexual orientation, envisaged in Part 3 of the Equality Act 2006, but it has also delayed bringing into effect the regulations relating to discrimination on the basis of religion or belief that were contained in Part 2 of the same act, have therefore already been approved by Parliament, and which were due to come into force this month. The official CofE position was broadly that the new regulations should parallel the wording used in Part 2.
Some of the more extreme religious groups, opposed even to the concept of such regulations, have restarted their campaign against them. See here for details. And also here. This campaign has been endorsed by Anglican Mainstream.
There was a recent comment article in the Daily Telegraph and this letter was published last Friday in response to it. The signatories include the Archdeacon of Hampstead and the Vice Chairman of the House of Laity of the General Synod.