UK charity commission rules adoption agency cannot discriminate against gay couples

The UK Charity Commission [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF; press release] Thursday that the Catholic social services agency Catholic Care [agency website] may not restrict its adoption services to married heterosexual couples. The commission's decision came after the UK High Court issued a judgment [JURIST report] in March instructing the commission to reconsider a previous ruling on the adoption service's practice. In its judgment, the court instructed the commission to consider the need to justify the discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and the case law interpreting Article 14, which indicates there needs to be particularly convincing reasons for the discrimination. The commission concluded that, while Catholic Care provides an important service, the evidence presented before the commission did not provide sufficiently convincing reasons for the discrimination. In its ruling, the commission stated that the main interest to be considered in the case is the interest of the children waiting to be adopted and that they deserve the broadest pool of applicants possible. The commission concluded that, even if Catholic Care no longer facilitated adoptions, children who would have been placed through the service are still likely to be adopted through another agency. It also cited the court's finding that respect for religious views is not a justification for discrimination in this particular case, because adoptions are a public service. Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, noted the complexity and sensitive nature of the topic and that the prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation is "a fundamental of human rights law." A spokesperson for Catholic care indicated the organization's disapointment in the ruling [press release] and stated that they are considering other ways to support couples planning to adopt.

Same-sex adoption has been an issue not only in the UK, but also in other countries. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court upheld a Mexico City law [JURIST report] allowing adoptions by same-sex couples. In April, an Arkansas judge ruled that a state law prohibiting all unmarried couples from adopting violated the state constitution [JURIST report] because it effectively prevented same-sex couples from adopting or fostering children. 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, a Florida judge ruled that state's ban on same-sex adoption was unconstitutional [JURIST report].

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.