[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official profile] announced Monday that rules under the Equality Act [text, PDF] protecting same-sex couples' rights to adopt children [JURIST report] without discrimination will apply without exception, denying special exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies opposed to same-sex unions and/or homosexuality. In a statement [text], Blair said:
[T]here is no place in our society for discrimination. That is why I support the right of gay couples to apply to adopt like any other couple. And that is why there can be no exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies offering publicly-funded services from regulations which prevent discrimination. . . .Blair's announcement followed a cabinet meeting which had discussed a suggestion by British Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor [BBC profile] that religious adoption groups be exempted from the law.
[T]he regulations that the Government will lay before Parliament . . . will include a transition period before these regulations come fully into force at the end of 2008 for existing adoption agencies. This will be coupled . . . with a statutory duty for any adoption agency which does not process applications from same sex couples to refer them to another agency. I have also asked for a regular independent assessment from adoption and child welfare experts on the impact of the sexual orientation regulations on adoption in order to maintain the existing body of expertise.
The new law will not go into full effect until the end of 2008. Earlier this month, Blair floated a compromise that would have respected the "sensitivities" of the Catholic Church [CBC report], but appeared to retreat [JURIST report] after vociferous objections from senior cabinet ministers. Reuters has more.