The former Conservative Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern has written in the Telegraph about the appropriateness of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006.
He states that the purpose of the regulations is to make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation unlawful in the provision of goods, facilities and services, education and public functions in relation to Northern Ireland.
He argues that these provisions test the relationship between the law and the personal morality of the individual. He points out that the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths have frowned upon the practice of homosexuality and thus these regulations require adherents to these faiths to breach their religious duties.
He also argues that it is not the practice of homosexuality which is called into question but the requirement that followers of the Abrahamic faiths must facilitate an act which their religions oppose.
He also points out that the regulations contain a provision outlawing harassment. He asks if the refusal by a person to facilitate the homosexual practice of another makes the person guilty of harassment. He highlights the case of a religious education teacher who encourages heterosexual marriage as a means of procreating and creating a better society. He thus questions whether a homosexual student in his class will be considered a victim of harassment.
He concludes by noting that the individual’s conscience has been cherished in our nation for many generations. He uses the example of the House of Commons where free votes are held when matters of conscience are involved. He therefore asks why we should deny citizens this right when there is an obvious crisis of conscience in this matter.