A Catholic adoption charity has been told it cannot discriminate against gay and lesbian adopters by restricting its services to heterosexual couples only.
Regulator The Charity Commission decided that Yorkshire-based Catholic Care should not be able to restrict its adoption services, on the grounds that this would discriminate against same-sex adopters and would not serve children’s interests.
The decision – which followed a High Court judgement in March 2010 to allow the charity to appeal against a decision made by the Charity Tribunal the previous year – was based on local authority evidence that councils consider gay men and lesbians as suitable prospective parents for hard-to-place children.
In addition, the commission found that, even if Catholic Care closed its adoption service – which the charity argued it would have to – the children it would have placed were likely to be matched with parents through other channels.
It decided the charity had not justifed the discrimination within Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as set out by the High Court, which also ruled that respect for religious views “could not justify discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation because of the essentially public nature of adoption services”.
Andrew Hind, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said the decision was reached following the principles set out by the High Court, case law and evidence.
“In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation,” he said. “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 has set out do not justify their wish to discriminate.”
Catholic Care argued that, without restricting its services, it would be forced to close its adoption service in order to keep its connection and funding with the Catholic Church.
Community Care is awaiting a response from Catholic Care.