Tony Blair is backing an attempt by the Communities Secretary, Ruth Kelly, to water down anti-discrimination laws to allow Catholic adoption agencies to turn away gay couples.
The Prime Minister is believed to have promised Catholic leaders that religious groups would be allowed some exemptions under the Equality Act, which bans discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation.
Mr Blair is furious that his pledge was undermined by Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, who defied him by bringing in regulations in the province this month ruling out any exemptions on religious grounds. The Catholic Church has threatened to close its seven adoption agencies if Ms Kelly, a Catholic, brings in similar rules for the rest of the UK.
No decision has been taken but Ms Kelly, with Mr Blair's backing, could provide some exemptions for religious bodies even though this is opposed by several cabinet ministers.
Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said the anti-discrimination law should be given full effect. "We do take the view in this country that you shouldn't be discriminated against on that basis and think that applies to everybody, whatever your religion," he said.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said: "We are absolutely committed to bringing forward effective protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and fully recognise the value of gay and lesbian parents. There is no question of preferential treatment for an individual faith."Reuse content