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Catholic agency in ultimate appeal over same-sex parenting

Catholic Care, the organisation providing adoption services to the catholic community, has started a last-ditch attempt to stop the application of regulations that would prevent it from excluding same-sex couples from its services.

3 March 2010

In a hearing this morning before the High Court, the charity argued that regulations made under the Equality Act 2006 unlawfully force it to consider gay couples as prospective parents, a move which, it says, goes against the teachings of the church on marriage and family life.

The appeal follows the Charity Tribunal decision last June which rejected Catholic Care’s appeal against a Charity Commission decision refusing its application for a variation of its objects.

The variation sought is based on specific provisions in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 which make it lawful in certain circumstances to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

According to the tribunal, while the charity was allowed to rely on a time-limited exemption until December 2008, it could not have been Parliament’s intention to allow this exemption to carry on as it was after the expiry of the transition period.

The tribunal also suggested at the time that the new rules would nevertheless allow Catholic Care and other faith-based adoption agencies to continue to provide adoption-related counselling services that did not involve the approval of potential adopters.

Catholic Care is the only one of the 11 Catholic adoption agencies in Britain to have continued to operate since the entry into force of the regulations.

“Unfortunately a change in the law designed to widen the pool of people able to legally adopt has had the effect of closing Catholic adoption agencies,” said Mark Wiggin, the charity’s chief executive.

The case is listed for two days. Judgment is expected to be reserved.

In a separate development, the House of Lords voted by a 95/21 majority in favour of an amendment to the Equality Bill allowing the holding of religious services for civil partnerships.

The amendment will now return to the Commons.

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Discrimination Children