Catholics Win Fight to Refuse Gay Adoption; Judge Backs Church over Freedom of Conscience

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Doughty Social Affairs Correspondent

A ROMAN Catholic adoption agency yesterday won a legal fight to keep its Christian rules saying children should not be sent to live with gay couples.

The ruling by a High Court judge was seen as landmark victory for freedom of religious conscience over the demands of equality legislation.

It means the charity Catholic Care could be allowed to continue finding families for vulnerable children despite Labour's new equality laws.

Mr Justice Briggs said because an exemption in the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations allowed gay charities to restrict their help to homosexuals, it was right that Catholic Care should also be allowed to discriminate. He also said that, in practice, no gay couples lost out, because the charity provided solely for children whom the state adoption system - which is open to single-sex couples - had already tried but failed to help.

The Leeds-based charity went to court to challenge a Charity Commission interpretation of the 2007 laws which stated it must accept gay couples as parents or shut down.

The rules have already seen 11 Catholic charities either sever their links with the Church or close adoption services.

One of Scotland's two Catholic adoption agencies, St Margaret's Adoption and Child Care Society in Glasgow, has used the same equality laws to secure itself an exemption but the issue forced Cardinal Keith O'Brien to resign as president of the other, the St Andrew's Children's Society in Edinburgh.

Yesterday Mr Justice Briggs savaged the thinking of the Commission, which he said was 'neither logical, rational, purposive nor responsive to any reasonable linguistic interpretation'.

And he ordered it to pay Catholic Care's legal costs, estimated at more than [pounds sterling]100,000. The judge said the charity found 'suitable adoptive parents for a significant number of children who would otherwise go unprovided for'.

'Same-sex couples would therefore neither be deprived of any significant benefit, not least since the only alternative of closure would make that benefit unavailable anyway, nor would they be disadvantaged in any competition with heterosexual couples for choice as the adoptive parents of any particular child,' he said.

The judge said the good work carried out by the charity outweighed the importance of European antidiscrimination legislation, but he sent the case back to the Charity Commission to reconsider in light of his ruling, which means it could yet find reasons to force the agency to close. …