Catholic adoption agency throws in the towel over discrimination appeal

One of the two Catholic adoption agencies that launched a legal challenge over gay adoption has withdrawn its case. Father Hudson’s Society, based in the Midlands, had launched a joint appeal in December with Catholic Care, based in Leeds. They sought to overturn a Charity Commission ruling that they could not change their governing documents which would then have allowed them to take advantage of vaguely-worded positive discrimination legislation and allow them to exclude gay people from adopting.

The agencies had hoped to change their charitable objects in order to take advantage of a positive discrimination clause in equality legislation which would permit them to discriminate against people with certain sexual orientations. The euphemistically-worded clause is clearly intended to permit positive discrimination in favour of homosexuals. The clause is only applicable to charities that specifically permit such discrimination in their governing documents, and the Catholic adoption agencies were seeking to take advantage of the loose wording by inserting references in their governing documents to discrimination in favour of heterosexuality.

To win, the charities would have had to demonstrate the public benefit created by their being permitted to discriminate was sufficient to justify exemption. The society withdrew its case at a hearing earlier this month although Catholic Care is continuing with its appeal, Third Sector Online reports. Neither charity was prepared to comment on the latest development. In January, it was reported that 50 per cent of the Catholic adoption agencies that threatened to close if forced to work with gay couples have adopted the new equality laws. Eleven agencies were given a 21-month exemption period from the Equality Act in April 2007, which forbade discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexuality. The exemption period ran out at the start of 2009.