Leading article: An unwise appointment

Share

When Ruth Kelly was appointed Equalities minister last year it was always obvious that at some point her own private views would come into conflict with her public duties. It was patently absurd that a member of the ultra-conservative Catholic sect, Opus Dei, should be put in charge of promoting equality for, among other minority groups, gays and lesbians. Ms Kelly's record spoke for itself. She had managed to "miss" House of Commons votes on the age of consent and civil partnerships. And her refusal last year to state whether she regards homosexuality as a sin should have been a warning that this was an unwise appointment. And so it has been proved by the present imbroglio over Catholic adoption agencies.

Last week the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, sent a letter to every Cabinet minister demanding an exemption for Catholic adoption agencies from the provisions of the incoming Equalities Act. In subsequent Cabinet discussions, Tony Blair himself was the driving force behind the push for an exemption. But, by all accounts, Ms Kelly was firmly in the Catholic Church's corner too. Thankfully, this attempt to water down the Act seems to have been resisted by other Cabinet ministers - a sign of Mr Blair's waning authority. The expectation in Westminster is that there will be no blanket exemption for Catholic agencies. But Ms Kelly's resistance to the very Act she was responsible for implementing was a disgrace.

This has been presented by the Catholic Church as a question of "freedom of conscience". But strip away the rhetoric and this was essentially an attempt by a powerful vested interest to manipulate the law of the land to suit itself. Freedom of conscience should, of course, be respected. But Catholic adoption agencies - which claim they are ready to work with people of all faiths and marital status - have made a decision to step outside the private space to which all religious groups are entitled. Whether they accept the definition or not, they are in effect providing a public service.

The Equality Act is clear. It is illegal to discriminate against gay people in the provision of goods and services. There is no evidence to suggest that gay parents provide an inferior upbringing to that offered by a heterosexual couple. Therefore discrimination against them, as routinely practised by the dozen or so Catholic adoption agencies in the UK, is illegal.

So the Equalities Act has survived. But the same cannot be said of Ms Kelly's reputation. When taking up her role last year she argued: "I think anybody should be free from discrimination and I'll fight to the end to make sure that is the case." How hollow those words sound now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam