Catholic adoption agencies in Britain face deadline to comply with anti-discrimination law

by on December 5, 2008  •  In Family law, Religion

The Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including adoption. Roman Catholic agencies were given a two-year window in which to comply with the new rules, which runs out at the end of this year.

[They] hoped to take advantage of a clause in the SORs by changing their objects to state the explicitly Catholic nature of their work. Regulation 18 states:

“It is lawful for a charity to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation if the charity is established to provide a benefit to that particular group because of their sexual orientation and the charity is acting in accordance with the charitable instrument.”

Regulation 18 protects charities that promote lesbian, gay or bisexual rights or provide counselling services to LGB people. The church agencies planned to change their objects to state they only adopt children to heterosexual couples or single people and claim an exemption under Regulation 18…..

When the Church's two year period of exemption from the SORs comes to an end on January 1st 2009, any Roman Catholic adoption agency that turns away a gay or lesbian couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation could face legal action [to have their charitable status withdrawn].

The government briefly considered an opt out for Roman Catholic adoption agencies. After meeting with MPs and the Cabinet in January 2007, former Prime Minister Tony Blair bowed to strong criticism from his own party over the exemption, [stating] "there can be no exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies offering publicly-funded services from regulations which prevent discrimination."

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