Scottish Catholic charity given until April to lift its illegal ban on gay adoptions

A COMPLAINT lodged against a Catholic adoption agency by the National Secular Society has resulted in a warning by the Charity Regulator in Scotland that it will lose its charitable status if it refuses to lift its ban on applications from gay couples.

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According to the NSS, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has ruled that St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society in Glasgow is directly discriminating against gay people by excluding them from becoming adopters.

Alistair McBay, spokesperson in Scotland for the National Secular Society, said:

After the ruling in England by the Charity Commission, backed by the courts, that Catholic adoption agencies there were in breach of the Equality Act by denying their services to gay couples, it is logical that the Scottish charity regulator has reached the same decision about St Margaret’s.

He added:

Sectarian decision-making has no place in adoption arrangements, and the regulator also found that St Margaret’s was discriminating against non-Catholic couples who applied to adopt. This kind of crude discrimination is no longer acceptable in our society – and that goes double where the discrimination is, in effect, being largely financed by the public purse.

Arguably more important than depriving gay couples of adoption is that St Margaret’s policy restricts the pool of adoptive parents, including gay parents, some of whom the Regulator acknowledges have special skills that would be especially appropriate with hard-to-place children.

McBay continued:

If St Margaret’s wishes to continue to provide services, it must remove these provisions from its constitution – this will be in the children’s best interests. In England, some of the Catholic agencies complied and are now providing their services to everyone without prejudice. Those doing so have generally been faced with the Catholic Church heartlessly withdrawing its co-operation and forcing them to break their link with the Church. Other agencies felt that they could not comply and have closed.

We hope that St Margaret’s will continue to fulfil its valuable role, even if it has to sever its connection with the Catholic Church. We certainly hope it will not take the same route as Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) which pursued a long, expensive and, in the end, fruitless appeal with the Charity Commission. The charity’s funds can be better spent in the interests of children than being wasted in legal fees to delay the inevitable.

The BBC quotes the Scottish Charity Regulator’s head of registration, Martin Tyson, as saying:

We acknowledge the valuable service provided by this charity, but the fact is that all charities must comply with the law, including the Equality Act 2010. Where we find this is not the case, we have a duty to act.

He added:

We have carefully considered the details of this case, and the legal position is clear – the charity must take steps so that it does not discriminate unlawfully and can pass the charity test.

He said:

We hope that the charity will respond positively and take the necessary action so that it remains in the Scottish Charity Register.

The regulator has issued a direction to St Margaret’s, instructing it to amend its procedures and assessment criteria to meet the requirements of the Equality Act. It has until April 22, 2013 to do so or risk losing its charitable status.

The law allows same sex couples in the UK to adopt children. The Adoption and Children Act of 2002 supports all couples’ application to adopt regardless of their sexual orientation or their marital status.

Other obstacles were removed by the Equality Act 2010 which prevents adoption agencies from discriminating against same sex couples.

Hat tip: Macinesker, Ian, BarrieJohn