Catholic agency wins right to exclude adoption by gay couples

A Catholic adoption society has won a High Court case over legislation which would have forced it to consider gay couples as adoptive parents.

Catholic Care, which serves the dioceses of Hallam, Leeds and Middlesbrough, launched the legal action saying it would have to give up its work finding homes for children if it has to comply with the legislation. Many other Catholic child welfare societies did give up adoption work when the new law came in.

Catholic Care decided to seek an exemption, under the Sexual Orientation Regulations, to allow it to continue to operate as it had always done.

The Charity Commission opposed this plea, but Mr Justice Briggs, sitting in London, allowed Catholic Care's appeal and ordered the commission to reconsider the case in the light of the principles set out in his judgment.

The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Arthur Roche, has welcomed the decision.  He said in a statement: "The Court has confirmed that Catholic Care was correct in its reading of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and has agreed with us that Regulation 18 can apply to any charity subject to it being in the public interest.  We look forward to producing evidence to the Charity Commission to support the position that we have consistently taken through this process, that without being able to use this exemption children without families would be seriously disadvantaged.

Catholic Care has been providing specialist adoption services for more than 100 years. We have helped hundreds of children though the recruitment, assessment, training and support for prospective adoptive parents as well as offering on-going and post-adoption support to families that give such security and love for some of the most vulnerable children in our society. The judgment today will help in our determination to continue to provide this invaluable service to benefit children, families and communities.

Caritas Social Action said: "By requiring the Charity Commission to review its decision the Court has upheld the legitimate freedom of charities to organise themselves in such a way that their activities reflect their religious ethos when justified in the public benefit, as we believe is the case in this instance.  In the context of co-operation between faith based charities and public authorities in future,  this is an extremely important principle to uphold within the ambit of the common good of society, and subject to the proper principle of proportionality."

Jonathan Finney, a spokesman for   the gay right charity Stonewall, said: "It's unthinkable that anyone engaged in delivering any kind of public or publicly funded service should be given licence to pick and choose service users on the basis of individual prejudice.

"It's clearly in the best interests of children in care to encourage as wide a pool of potential adopters as possible. There should be no question of discriminatory behaviour by any organisation that benefits from the taxpayer."

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