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According to a recent report from The Guardian, the European Union is forcing the British government to remove legal protections that allow religious groups and organizations to refuse to employ homosexuals.

Apparently the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, sent a letter to the British government last week informing them that the current legal exemptions for religious organizations violate the EU directive against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The letter was sent in response to a formal complaint from the National Secular Society, which argued that the exemptions created “illegal discrimination against homosexuals.” Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was quoted saying, “It is a big embarrassment for the British government, which has consistently sought to appease religious homophobes by granting them opt-outs from key equality laws. The European commission has ruled these opt-outs are excessive.”

The exemptions currently apply to the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations of 2003, under which religious groups are allowed to refuse to employ a homosexual employee “so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.”

However, the letter from the EU leaves the British government no choice but to amend its current discrimination legislation. As Archbishop Cranmer puts it, “Her Majesty’s Government is forced to amend a sovereign Act of Parliament in order that it might conform to a higher-sovereign EU directive.

Vladimir Špidla, the EU’s equal opportunities commissioner, has called on the government to make the requisite changes as soon as possible.

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