Catholic adoption agency appeals against gay rights law

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A Catholic adoption agency is to launch a High Court appeal today against gay rights legislation forcing it to consider homosexual couples as potential adoptive parents.

Catholic Care will appeal against a refusal by the Charity Tribunal to allow the charity to change its objectives to restrict its adoption services to heterosexual prospective parents.

The move comes after the Roman Catholic Church lost a battle against the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) forcing agencies to consider gay couples as potential adoptive parents.

The Catholic agencies were given a 21-month transition period to adjust to the new regulations and by January last year, five of its agencies had cut formal ties with the Church to comply with the rules.

The Catholic Children's Society, Westminster, has decided to end work with new adoption and Father Hudson's Society, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, announced it was "demerging" its adoption recruitment and assessment into a separate charity after an unsuccessful appeal to the Charity Commission.

Catholic Care, serving the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam in South Yorkshire, is the last to continue its fight against the regulations.

The case comes as the Catholic bishops of England and Wales prepare to launch a pre-election document on Catholic social teaching, Choosing the Common Good.

The bishops are expected to allude to the row over the adoption agencies and warn against excluding the church from acting with "integrity" in the provision of public services.

A statement issued by Mark Wiggin, chief executive of Catholic Care, said the agency had helped to secure "loving" families for 1,388 of the most vulnerable children in the Yorkshire region since 1963.

He said: "This service has been at the heart of the local community for over 100 years, praised and widely appreciated by local authorities and social services, as well as the children who have benefited from this work and your support.

"Children have a right to a family life. There are too many children awaiting adoption and Catholic Care has a vital role, along with other adoption agencies, in helping very vulnerable children by finding loving families for them.

"If Catholic Care is forced to close its adoption service, children would lose an effective and well respected resource in the Yorkshire region."