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UK court rules Catholic adoption agency not required to consider gay couples

[JURIST] The UK High Court ruled [judgment text] Wednesday that the Catholic social services agency Catholic Care [agency website] may refuse to consider same-sex couples as candidates for adoption, pending a review of their policy by the UK Charity Commission. The case revolved around interpretation of Regulation 18 of The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations of 2007 [materials]. That legislation forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, except for charities, which, under Regulation 18, can refuse to assist individuals as long as they are acting as a "charitable instrument" and the restriction, "is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument." Based on the Chancery Division's reading of that regulation, Catholic Care will be permitted to continue its adoption practices [Guardian report] until the Charity Commission makes a ruling based on the court's interpretation of Regulation 18. In remitting the case for that ruling, Justice Briggs wrote:

On my interpretation of Regulation 18, the Commission is the body charged by Parliament with the task of carrying out that analysis. ... I have no reason to suppose that, directed as to the true interpretation of Regulation 18, the Charity Commission will not properly be able to carry out that analysis, either on the facts thus far proved, or upon the basis of such further evidence as it may consider necessary and appropriate to take into account.

The Bishop of Leeds issued a statement [press release] through Catholic Care calling the decision a victory and saying it, "will help in our determination to continue to provide this invaluable service to benefit children, families and communities." The gay rights charity Stonewall [advocacy website] condemned the ruling [press release], saying, "[i]t's clearly in the best interests of children in care to encourage as wide a pool of potential adopters as possible." Other Catholic agencies in the UK had either broken their ties to the Roman Catholic Church to comply with the new regulations, or had ceased their adoption operations. With the victory for Catholic Care, it is unclear whether those UK charities that had abandoned their adoption services will now begin providing those services again.

Same-sex adoption has been an issue not only in the UK, but also in other countries. In February, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered [JURIST report] the state of Louisiana to place the names of two fathers on the birth certificate of a boy born in that state but adopted by a same-sex couple in New York. In November, a French court ruled that a law prohibiting same-sex couples from adopting children in France is discriminatory [JURIST report] and ordered that a single woman be allowed to adopt. In September, Uruguay's Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] legalizing same-sex adoption in that country. In November 2008, the same month that a Florida judge ruled that state's ban on same-sex adoption was unconstitutional, voters in Arkansas approved [JURIST reports] a ballot measure prohibiting all unmarried couples from adopting a child. Arkansas does not recognize same-sex marriage, and proponents of the act claimed it was aimed at same-sex couples.

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