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Regulator stands by earlier adoption charity ruling

19 August 2010

The Charity Commission has confirmed its earlier ruling that it will not allow Catholic Care to amend its object to circumvent the laws on sexual orientation discrimination.

The charity sought to rely on exceptions in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 to argue that it should be allowed to continue to offer adoption services to heterosexual couples only.

The regulator rejected the charity’s request but, in March last year, the High Court quashed the decision and invited the commission to reconsider its position (see solicitorsjournal.com, 17 March 2010).

The charity argued that forcing it to open its adoption services to gay couples would breach a fundamental tenet of the faith and that it would be forced to shut the service if it could not secure a change to its objects.

But yesterday the commission reached the same conclusion as it did in 2009. Ruling that the charity could not rely on the suggested exemption, it found that the proposed discrimination was not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim within the meaning of article 14 ECHR, which bans discrimination.

The charity, it said, had not provided “sufficiently convincing and weighty reasons” to justify its wish to restrict its service to heterosexual prospective parents.

The regulator said that it was in the interest of children waiting to be adopted that the pool of prospective parents should be as wide as possible.

It also noted that while the charity said its preferred adoptive model was the “Nazarene family”, Catholic Care had made exceptions, including placing children with single parents.

The commission also pointed out that local authority evidence suggested that even if the charity were to close its adoption service, children who would have been placed through the charity are likely to be placed through other channels.

Gay and lesbian people, it continued, were regarded by local authorities as suitable prospective parents for hard to place children and that such adoptions have been successful.

Further, the High Court judgment had found that respect for religious views could not be a justification for discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in this case, because of the essentially public nature of adoption services.

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