27 Apr 2011

UK Catholic adoption agency loses legal fight to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples

The Guardian - UK April 26, 2011

Catholic adoption agency loses gay adoption fight

Leeds-based agency Catholic Care told it must consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents

Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent

A Catholic adoption agency has lost a two-year battle to be excluded from laws that ban discrimination against homosexuals.

Leeds-based Catholic Care wanted exemption from the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations, which require it to consider gay and lesbian couples as prospective parents.

But a ruling on Tuesday by the Charity Tribunal upheld an earlier decision from the Charity Commission. The bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Arthur Roche, said he was disappointed with the tribunal's ruling. He said: "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 according to the tenets of the Catholic faith."

Roche had told the Charity Tribunal the agency would suffer financially if it was forced to accept applications from homosexual couples because donations would dry up.

But the tribunal said it was "impossible" to conclude that Catholic Care's income would suffer it were to operate an open adoption service.

It said: "There was evidence before the tribunal that some Catholics do offer financial support to adoption agencies which provide services to same-sex adopters but no evidence from the charity that it had considered how it might attract alternative financial supporters if it did not discriminate."

It conceded 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 said it had to balance the risk of closure of the charity's adoption service against the "detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed".

Gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the tribunal's decision, saying there should be "no question" of publicly funded services being allowed to "pick and choose their service users on the basis of individual prejudice".

The row over exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies dates back to 2007, when the regulations were introduced. At the time, the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, warned that the 11 Catholic adoption agencies would close rather than place children with gay couples.

But the then prime minister, Tony Blair, said there was "no place" for discrimination in British society.

The Tory leader David Cameron called for a compromise solution because Catholic adoption agencies did a "fantastic job in placing hard-to-place children".

While some agencies have closed, others have severed their links with the church in order to stay open.

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Secular News Daily  -  April 25, 2011

No ‘opt out’ from equality law: Catholic adoption agency will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples

by British Humanist Association

No ‘opt out’ from equality law: Catholic adoption agency will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples

Humanists have welcomed today’s unanimous Charity Tribunal decision to throw out the Catholic Care case, following a number of attempts by the adoption agency to gain permission to discriminate against same-sex couples. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said the decision makes clear that religious organisations may not simply ‘opt themselves out’ of abiding by equality law that binds all other groups providing public services.

The BHA, an equalities and human rights organisation, campaigned vigorously in support of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007 (SORs), which prevent discrimination by religious organisations on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including in adoption services. These provisions are now part of the Equality Act 2010, and that is the law which this Charity Tribunal was making its assessments in light of.

Leeds based Catholic Care originally appealed to the Charity Commission in 2007 in light of the SORs, and in the High Court challenged the Charity Commission’s original refusal to allow the organisation to restrict their services to heterosexuals. In March 2010, the presiding Judge, Mr Justice Briggs, instructed the Commission to reconsider the request, which was refused in August. Catholic Care took their case to the Charity Tribunal and lost their appeal today.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Today’s decision sends a clear signal that religious organisations, including religious charities, providing public services may not simply opt themselves out of a law which prevents discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. When groups are providing public services, not least vital services such as adoption, it is legitimate to prevent unjustified discrimination, as the law seeks to do, in order to ensure that those services are equal, accessible and operate in the interests of those they are helping. Equality of individuals before the law is a cornerstone of a fair and good society, and a principle which has been upheld by today’s decision not to allow Catholic Care to discriminate against gay couples seeking to adopt.

‘Catholic Care has failed to make a convincing case to allow them to breach equality law and discriminate in the provision of adoption services, and the Charity Tribunal decision to throw out the case is to be welcomed. To have permitted an opt out from the law to allow discrimination on grounds of the organisation’s religious ethos and prejudices would be a failure to serve the children who need loving homes, as well as failing to uphold the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to be treated equally and with respect in the provision of services.’

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1 comment:

  1. Mother Teresas orphanages end adoptions because of new liberal rules in India

    By Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post October 10, 2015

    NEW DELHI —Thirty orphanages run by the group founded by Mother Teresa have decided to shutter their adoption services in India rather than comply with a new government system that makes it easier for single and divorced people to adopt children.

    “We have already shut our adoption services, because we believe our children may not receive real love,” said Sister Amala at Nirmala Shishu Bhawan, a New Delhi orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity. “We do not wish to give children to single parents or divorced people. It is not a religious rule but a human rule. Children need both parents, male and female. That is only natural, isn’t it?”

    In recent months, the government has overhauled India’s complex adoption bureaucracy to reduce the long, frustrating waiting period faced by prospective parents and boost the country’s woefully low adoption rates.

    [India moves to improve ‘shameful’ record on orphan adoptions]

    Estimates of the number of orphans in India vary from 16 million to 30 million, a figure cited by several nongovernmental organizations, but only about 2,500 orphans were adopted last year, down from 5,700 four years ago, according to the Women and Child Development Ministry.

    Under the earlier system, orphanages around the country were allowed to handpick parents and match them with children. But that process, officials say, operated with scant oversight and was plagued by corruption, trafficking, delays, favoritism and prejudice.

    Since August, the government has required orphanages to submit records of children to a central authority that maintains a database. Prospective parents are now asked to register with the authority, whose automated system will match them with children.

    That means children from any orphanage can potentially be matched with single parents anywhere in the country, something that the nuns of Mother Teresa’s order frown upon.

    At a meeting in New Delhi this past week, Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child development, said the Missionaries of Charity had refused to register children in their care with the central authority.

    “They have cited ideological issues with our adoption guidelines, related to giving a child up for adoption to single, unwed mothers,” Gandhi said at the event. “They do not want to come under a uniform secular agenda.”

    Gandhi said the government will try to persuade the religious order to work with the new system because it has “valuable, good people” and experience in adoption.

    The order, however, said it will give up its license. In New Delhi, it has transferred six unadopted children to Holy Cross Social Services, a Catholic organization.

    “We want to bring everybody under a uniform, secular Web site. We do not want different groups to run their own parallel systems anymore,” an official in the Women and Child Development Ministry said.

    The vacuum left by the order is being filled by other agencies.

    “We are seeing a sudden rise in children coming to our adoption home. It could be because the Missionaries of Charity is not accepting any more,” said Lorraine Campos, assistant director of Palna, one of the oldest adoption homes in the capital. “We do not have a problem with single parents or divorced people. We have to accept that society is changing. We have to be flexible, too. But we carefully study the kind of job pressures of the applicant, and we also ensure that they have a family support system that can step in to give care to the child.”

    The Indian system does not, however, allow adoption by gay prospective parents. “We have not progressed to that extent yet,” Campos said.

    Adoption agencies say the new system has cut the waiting period from several months to a few weeks.