The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has condemned a ruling today (17 March) by the High Court to allow an adoption agency to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
Mr Justice Briggs granted Catholic Care an exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The organisation, which works in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam had threatened to close if the exemption were not granted.
The Charity Commission opposed Catholic Care’s request for exemption.
A number of Roman Catholic leaders and socially conservative pressure groups had claimed that several Catholic adoption agencies would close when the Sexual Orientation Regulations came into force in 2007. However, the majority adapted to the change in the law.
Today's decision was welcomed by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Arthur Roche.
He said the ruling would “help in our determination to continue to provide this invaluable service to benefit children, families and communities".
Roche claimed that, “Without being able to use this exemption, children without families would be seriously disadvantaged”.
But Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of LGCM, said “It is both unacceptable and outrageous that laws can be passed which the High Court then allows to be ignored”.
She added, “Children deserve the right to the very best adoptive parents and what makes a couple suitable to be parents is not their sexual orientation”.
Catholic Care’s case was based on the argument that any charity could be exempt from aspects of the Sexual Orientation Regulations if this can be shown to be in the public interest.
However, the notion that this was in the public interest was disputed by Stonewall, which campaigns for the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
Stonewall’s Jonathan Finney described as “unthinkable” the idea that “anyone engaged in delivering any kind of public or publicly funded service should be given licence to pick and choose service users on the basis of individual prejudice”.
The wider implications of the ruling are as yet unclear. Ferguson expressed her alarm about the possibility of “the potential erosion of equality through the back door”.