England: Catholic Cares, a Catholic run adoption service agency, just lost what might be a landmark appeal regarding their right to discriminate. The agency, run by the Diocese of Leeds, maintains that it shouldn’t have to consider same-sex couples. The organization has been fighting for an exemption to current equal rights laws since 2009. According to Catholic Care, if they are unable to have the exemption, their funding (donations) would suffer since most are generated from Catholic Churches that don’t condone same-sex families.
The case went to the High Court last year where it was rejected. Now the Charity Tribunal has also rejected the appeal stating that it had to balance the risk of the organization closing with the "detriment to same-sex couples and the detriment to society generally of permitting the discrimination proposed".
Three cheers, right?
Well, yes. But one quick thing before you go.
The Catholic Church already has an exemption from discrimination; they are not required to perform same-sex marriages. This makes a certain amount of sense and follows a certain bit of precedent. The idea of a church not marrying anyone who happens to request their services is not new. The church, any church, can deny or augment a wedding service for any number of reasons. In fact, the Mormon Church, even if you are getting officially Mormon married, will require that all your non-Mormon friends wait outside the Temple.
Supporters of Catholic Care, and other Catholic adoption agencies, argue that considering the already in-place exemption for marriages, doesn’t it make sense that they be allowed to only place children in Catholic homes? Since there are other non-Catholic charities and adoption agencies out there for same-sex families to use, what’s the harm in granting this exemption?
The difference is that wedding ceremonies are, when preformed in a church and officiated by a clergyperson of some sort, religious rituals that should adhere to the religion they are evoking. Adoption services, on the other hand, are social services that are there for the betterment of society. These are children we are talking about, children that need homes. All adoption agencies have their rubric for determining the suitability of matched homes, as they should. Qualifications based on financial stability, general health, location, etc are perfectly proper things to consider, but the sexual orientation of the prospective parents should not be a factor.
It is worth noting again that the Tribunal thought that even considering this type of discrimination would be a detriment to the general society.
Of course, now the Catholic Church feels discriminated against. But that’s tomorrow’s problem. For now, let’s get back to those three cheers.
More information can be found at the BBC