[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that the increasingly-controversial issue of whether Catholic adoption agencies would have to permit adoptions by same-sex couples under new equality regulations will be decided in cabinet next week. The rules would ostensibly prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples wishing to exercise their new right to adopt children [JURIST report], but after British Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor suggested that this might force Catholic adoption agencies opposed to same-sex unions to close, Blair earlier this week floated a compromise that would respect the "sensitivities" of the Catholic Church [CBC report]. A phalanx of senior cabinet ministers objected to the idea however, insisting that regulations under the Equality Act [text, PDF] had in fact to be applied equally.
In a statement read to reporters at a press conference, the Prime Minister's spokesman said:
These new regulations provide a massive step forward in ending discrimination against gay people. They build on previous measures, such as equalising the age of consent...and the introduction of civil partnerships. Now we want to ensure equality in the provision of goods and services, such as hotels and housing. This is about regulations which will extend further anti-discrimination legislation. We are clear about what we want to do.Observers say the regulations advanced to Parliament for its final approval next month will likely grant a "transition" period to allow agencies to adapt to the new egalitarian rules. The Independent has more.
There is one last aspect within the new regulations to resolve, and it concerns adoption. I have always personally been in favour of the right of gay couples to adopt. Our priority will always be the welfare of the child. That is why the Adoption Act in 2004 sought to extend the field of potential adoptive parents to include unmarried and gay couples. Catholic adoption agencies represent one third of the voluntary sector operating in this area, and have a proven track record with the most difficult to place children. Both gay couples and the Catholic agencies have high levels of success in adopting hard to place children. It is for that reason we have taken time to ensure we get these regulations right. How do we protect the principle of ending discrimination against gay people and at the same time, protect those vulnerable children who at the present time are being placed through an aftercare provided by Catholic agencies who everyone accepts do a great job with some of the most disturbed youngsters? We will announce a decision next week, and then vote.