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Catholic Care loses its five-year legal battle

The adoption agency Catholic Care has lost its five year fight to reserve its services for heterosexual couples only, in a landmark court ruling.

The adoption agency based in Leeds, had taken its case to the Upper Tribunal in order to win the right to maintain charitable status while being permitted to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, in accordance with the charity’s Catholic ethos.

However, they were defeated today as the Charity Commission argued that the charity’s stance is “divisive, capricious and arbitrary” and undermined the dignity of homosexual couples whose parenting abilities are “beyond question”.

The tribunal concluded that Catholic Care had failed to come up with “weighty and convincing reasons” as to why the agency should be allowed to discriminate against gay couples who were trying to access their services.

Emma Dixon, who was representing the Charity Commission, told tribunal judge, Mr Justic Sales, that Catholic Care’s desried arrangement would violate Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and other characteristics. She said: “A requirement to operate within the tenets of the Church cannot constitute Article 14 justification.

“To do so would be to offer protection to the substance of the Church’s belief that homosexuality is sinful.

“To do so would not only be divisive, capricious and arbitrary, it would be excluding from assessment couples whose personal qualities and aptitude for child-rearing are beyond question.”

She added: “There is, as the charity now accepts, no basis whatsoever for calling into question the skills and abilities of same-sex couples as adoptive parents, including as parents of ‘hard to place’ children…it is not necessary to exclude same-sex couples in order to find suitable and loving adoptive parents for children.

“Indeed, the reverse is true. To excluse from assessment same-sex couple’s whose personal qualities and aptitude for child rearing are beyond question would be to allow considerations favouring marriage to prevail over the best interests of the chlid, which would be neither objectively justified nor proportionate.”

But Monica Carss-Frisk QC, who represented Catholic Care, argued that the Commission’s focus put the needs of children second and said it was “tantamount to putting the interests of the helper before those of the helpless”.