New laws protecting lesbian, gay and bisexual people from discrimination when accessing goods and services will come into force at the end of next month the Government has confirmed.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) which were published by Catholic Secretary of State Ruth Kelly yesterday, will also mean the end of gay or lesbian only bars.
The regulations were published after months of political argument. It also saw Christians and church groups divided between those who wanted the right to withhold hospitality and services from gay people, and those who felt that whatever one's views on sexuality, being a Christian meant offering hospitality and services to all in need.
Welcoming the publication of the regulations Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said: "I am proud to bring forward practical new protections for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people.
"The overwhelming majority of people in our country want a society where every citizen is treated fairly and with respect. This Government, over the last decade, has done more than any other to build a decent and cohesive society."
The regulations mean that it will be illegal to refuse a double room to a gay couple, or admission to a school based of a parent's sexuality. But it also means that gay bars and clubs will have to let straight people in, as it will be illegal to discriminate against anyone due to their sexuality.
Ms Kelly also said: "The principles behind these measures are straightforward. It cannot be right in a decent, tolerant society that a shopkeeper or restaurant can refuse to serve a customer because they are gay. It cannot be right for a school to discriminate against a child because of their parents' sexuality or not to take homophobic bullying as seriously as they should."
But there was controversy recently when Catholic adoption agencies wanted the right to refuse adoption applications from gay parents. Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly caused outrage among Labour MPs and a Cabinet row when they attempted to secure a permanent opt-out from the regulations for the agencies.
However a "grace" period for adoption agencies run by the Roman Catholic church has now been written into the regulations, to give them time to adjust.