UK gay groups welcome apparent decision by govt on gay adoption

January 26, 2007

Ben Summerskill
Story by UK Gay News

LONDON — Gay groups have welcomed reports in the media today that government ministers have decided not to allow Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of new discrimination laws.

“This is a triumph for 21st century tolerance over 19th century prejudice,” commented Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill.

“We’re absolutely delighted that the Government seems to have decided against an opt-out. The exemptions which Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and others were demanding would have denied some of Britain’s most vulnerable young people a loving home, as well as stigmatising lesbian and gay parents and the many children raised in stable, loving families by them,” he said.

The government, the Times reports, has accepted a “compromise”, suggested by Stonewall, that Roman Catholic adoption agencies would be given up to a year to prepare for a law barring discrimination against gay couples.

Also welcoming the Government's reported promise not to grant religious exemptions to the Sexual Orientation Regulations is the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA)

But GALHA warns that “this is the first shot in a long battle”.

“The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will soon begin operating, secretary George Broadhad said.

“It is an umbrella organisation trying to protect the rights of all minorities. It has religion and belief as well as sexual orientation within its remit, and this latest battle over adoption agencies shows just how difficult it is going to be to reconcile the two.

“This problem of religious homophobia is not going to go away,” Broadhead predicted.

“As individual discrimination cases arise, Trevor Phillips, the head of the new commission, will have to try to decide whose rights are paramount.

“In the area of equality, there can be no compromise – gay people must be given complete protection from aggressive religious homophobia. There must be no conscience clauses, exemptions or special arrangements anywhere in law that allow religious groups to discriminate where no-one else can.”

And news that the Anglican Church of England has joined the Roman Catholic Church in seeking exemption was labelled “predictable, self-serving prejudice” and “no surprise” by GAHLA.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury argues that the opt-outs are necessary to protect the religious from acting against their ‘conscience’. What kind of conscience is it that feels it is necessary to, in effect, put up a sign outside its premises saying ‘No Gays’?

“The bishops may be presenting themselves as some sort of victims, but the truth is that they are hiding their crude loathing of gay people under a cloak of ‘conscience. This is nothing less than ecclesiastical gay-bashing,” Broadhead insisted. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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