Catholic Care and adoption by same-sex couples – the story continues

Third Sector Online reports  that the latest appeal in the interminable saga of Catholic Care is being heard in the Upper Tribunal.

Catholic Care refuses as a matter of theological principle to provide adoption services to same-sex couples. The Chancery Division had remitted to the Charity Commission for reconsideration, “directing itself in law in accordance with the principles set out in this judgment”, as to whether or not Catholic Care should be permitted to change its objects so as to bring its activities within the exemption for charities in Regulation 18 of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007: see Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission for England and Wales & Anor [2010] EWHC 520 (Ch) (17 March 2010).

Having duly reconsidered the matter, in Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) [2010] Ch Comm E & W final determination (21 July 2010, published 19 August 2010) the Commission refused to permit Catholic Care to amend its charitable objects to restrict adoption services to heterosexual prospective parents only, on the following grounds:

  • the interests of the children were paramount and it was in the interests of children waiting to be adopted that the pool of prospective parents should be as wide as possible;
  • discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is a serious matter because it departed from the principle of treating people with equal respect;
  • if the charity were to close its adoption service, the children who would have been placed with prospective parents supported by the charity were likely to be placed with prospective parents through other channels;
  • the local authorities concerned considered that homosexual people were suitable prospective parents for hard-to-place children and such adoptions had been successful; and
  • the Chancery Division had indicated that in the circumstances of this particular case, respect for religious views did not justify discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

Catholic Care wants to make use of an exemption for charities under section 193 of the Equality Act 2010, which allows discrimination on basis of sexual orientation provided it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. The charity has argued that if it could not discriminate against same-sex couples it would lose its funding from the Roman Catholic Church and would have to close.

This is the fourth in a series of appeals by Catholic Care since the Charity Commission’s original refusal in November 2008. This latest appeal, for which the Upper Tribunal gave leave in August 2012, is against the Charity Tribunal’s rejection in April 2011 of Catholic Care’s request to change its objects: see Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v Charity Commission for England and Wales [2011] FTT CA/2010/0007 (26 April 2011). The hearing is scheduled to last for two days.

6 thoughts on “Catholic Care and adoption by same-sex couples – the story continues

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  2. Third Sector Online’s report of the second day of the hearing.

    Emma Dixon, for the Charity Commission, said that the charity’s attempt to justify exclusion on the grounds that the benefit to children needing adoption would outweigh the detriment to gay couples could have wider ramifications.

    “A balance of that sort between benefit and detriment is not by itself the test for justifying discrimination in this context or any other… Were it so, it could be seen that the provision of any service by a charity on a discriminatory basis could be justified on the grounds that the benefit to the majority group receiving the service will outweigh detriment to the minority group.”

    Dixon said that the Charity Tribunal had been right in April 2011 when it held that Catholic Care had failed to establish “weighty and convincing” reasons for preventing gay couples from using its adoption service.

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