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Last Catholic adoption agency loses appeal

The Catholic Care website. The agency may be forced to end its adoption services

The Charity Commission has ruled that the Catholic Care adoption agency must allow gay couples to adopt children.

After fighting an ongoing battle to avoid the fate of other Catholic adoption agencies – either closure or separation from the Church – Catholic Care has been told that it must comply with anti-discrimination laws.

The charity, which covers the diocese of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam, is the only one of 11 Catholic adoption agencies to fight the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) through the courts. The legislation compels charities to accept same-sex couples as adoptive parents.

Catholic Care challenged an earlier Charity Commission ruling, backed by the Charities Tribunal, that charities could not use Regulation 18 of the SORs, a clause which would allow organisations to exercise limited discrimination in pursuance of their objectives.

Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that Catholic Care had grounds for an appeal. It found that the Charity Commission had misinterpreted Regulation 18, giving a glimmer of hope to the charity.

At the time Mr Justice Briggs found that gay couples could be discriminated against if there were “particularly convincing and weighty reasons” for doing so. He pointed out that the adoption agency dealt exclusively with difficult cases of children who had dropped out of the state system which is open to same-sex couples.

But the Charity Commission found – in a decision made on July 22 – that the case put forward by Catholic Care did not establish “particularly convincing and weighty reasons”.

The Charity Commission ruling listed “evidence of local authorities is also that they consider gay and lesbian people as suitable prospective parents for hard-to-place children and that adoptions made have been successful” as a reason for considering Catholic Care’s appeal unjustified. It said that the interests of the children are paramount and that “the courts have found that it is in the interests of children waiting to be adopted that the pool from which prospective parents are drawn is as wide as possible”.

The Catholic Church considers gay adoption to be gravely immoral.

A spokesman for Catholic Care said: “The Charity is very disappointed with the outcome. Catholic Care will now consider whether there is any other way in which the Charity can continue to support families seeking to adopt children in need.

“In any event, Catholic Care will seek to register as an adoption support agency offering a service to those who were adopted in the past and are now seeking information about their background, and also to support adoptive parents already approved by Catholic Care.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds could not be reached.