Wednesday, October 29, 2008

LGBT Adoptions

England’s 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations “outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services.” One of these services is adoption, a service that is often provided by the Catholic Church. Many Church agencies have severed ties with the Church in order to comply with new legislation and carry on with their duties, while others have closed their doors in the face of such changes. In some situations, such as in the case of The Westminster Catholic Children's Society, clergy have either outright ignored legislation or have attempted to find loopholes that allow them to continue practicing discriminatory adoption.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, president of the aforementioned Westminster Catholic Children's Society, made clear his intention to exclusively place children with heterosexuals. Since his announcement over the summer, five agencies in the United Kingdom have disclaimed control by the Church and one has ceased to function as an adoption agency. These cases reflect a mixed reaction by the Church over former Prime Minster Tony Blair’s “support [of] the right of gay couples to apply to adopt like any other couple.” While it is too soon to declare a victory for either side, some agencies have expressed no intention to comply with the fast-approaching legislation deadline.

A significant minority of adoptions are arranged by the Catholic Church in Great Britain and the United States. The Church’s unprecedented role in the care and adoption of foster children cannot be overstated. This does not, however, justify their defiance of legislation which advances the rights of members of the LGBT community to adopt. As of January 1st 2009 any Catholic adoption agency that attempts to prevent a gay or lesbian couple from adopting based upon their sexual orientation could face legal action.

Will lawmakers in England allow Church agencies to continue practicing an incredibly valuable service even if they continue to disregard new legislation? The worst case scenario would echo the Catholic Charities of Boston’s’ 2006 decision to stop working in adoption after state laws were passed allowing adoptions by LGBT-identified people. Governments have previously discussed granting exemptions to the church, but in the case of Great Britain, Prime Minister Blair’s outgoing support for the legislation has been maintained. A 2006 Pew Center survey indicated that 46% of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to adopt, up from 38% in 1999. Perhaps it is time for the Catholic Church to reassess its stance on those of the LGBT community to adopt.

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