Catholic charity appeal dismissed
A Catholic charity which wants exemption from equality laws which would force it to provide its adoption services to gay couples has had its latest appeal rejected.
Catholic Care, which is based in the Diocese of Leeds, has spent more than two years arguing it will have to give up its work finding homes for children if it has to comply with recent equality regulations which prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples wanting to adopt.
The complex legal debate ended up in the High Court last year before it was referred back to the Charity Commission which again refused to back Catholic Care's stance.
A tribunal dismissed the charity's appeal, supporting the Charity Commission's ruling. In its decision, the tribunal acknowledged there would be "a loss to society if the charity's skilled staff were no longer engaged in the task of preparing potential adopters to offer families to children awaiting an adoption placement".
But the panel said it had to balance the risk of closure of the charity's adoption service - which it said was "by no means certain" - against the "detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed". The ruling dismissed an appeal by Catholic Care against the decision of the Charity Commission to refuse its consent to a "change of charitable objects".
The charity argued that its stance attracted potential adopters who did not approach other agencies. It told the tribunal that same-sex couples could get adoption services from local authorities and other voluntary agencies and said failure to secure the exemption would hit the voluntary donations which keep it afloat.
But the tribunal found that adoption is a public service, funded in part by local authorities, so does not have the same exemptions under the Equality Act 2010 as those which cover private religious worship.
Responding to the ruling, Bishop of Leeds Arthur Roche said: "Catholic Care is very disappointed with this ruling. The trustees are considering their position and whether or not to appeal. It is unfortunate that those who will suffer as a consequence of this ruling will be the most vulnerable children for whom Catholic Care has provided an excellent service for many years.
"It is an important point of principle that the charity should be able to prepare potential adoptive parents, a service recognised for its excellence by the local authorities who are responsible for placing children, according to the tenets of the Catholic faith."
Deputy chief executive of gay equality charity Stonewall, Laura Doughty, said: "There should be no question of anyone engaged in delivering any kind of public or publicly funded service being allowed to pick and choose their service users on the basis of individual prejudice. This ruling makes the law in this area crystal clear."