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19 AUG 2010

Catholic adoption agency loses appeal to discriminate against gays

BabyA Catholic adoption agency has lost its appeal to be allowed to continue to discriminate against gay people wanting to adopt.

The Charity Commission for England and Wales announced today that it had refused the application of Catholic Care to amend its charitable objects to exempt it from the Sexual Orientations Regulations 2006, under the Equality Act, so it could limit services provided to homosexual couples on religious grounds.

The Commission's decision follows a High Court judgment in March 2010 to allow an appeal by the charity against a decision of the Charity Tribunal made in June 2009, which had upheld the Commission's decision not to agree to a change of the charity's objects.

The High Court judgment required the Commission to consider the case afresh, and set out the principles it should consider in doing so. These principles included the need to justify the discrimination within Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which deals with the general prohibition of discrimination. Case law indicates that there needs to be ‘particularly convincing and weighty reasons' as to why any discrimination could be justified.

The Commission concluded that the evidence did not provide sufficiently convincing and weighty reasons to justify the charity's wish to restrict its service to heterosexual prospective adoptive parents.

Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: "In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, because the prohibition on such discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, such discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances. We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate."

The charity, which serves the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough, and Hallam in South Yorkshire, argued that if it cannot discriminate as it proposed, it would have to close its adoption service in order to keep its connection with the Roman Catholic Church and the funding that this brings.

A spokesperson for the charity said: "The Charity is very disappointed with the outcome. Catholic Care will now consider whether there is any other way in which the Charity can continue to support families seeking to adopt children in need.

"In any event, Catholic Care will seek to register as an adoption support agency offering a service to those who were adopted in the past and are now seeking information about their background, and also to support adoptive parents already approved by Catholic Care."

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