Monday, January 29, 2007

TB: No Exceptions

Capping a week of church-state tensions in the UK, Downing Street will not grant an exemption to regulations mandating equal opportunity for same-sex couples who wish to adopt.
After a week of intense debate, which reportedly split the Cabinet, the Prime Minister confirmed that faith-based organisations would not be exempt from the new Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Instead the groups will be given until the end of 2008 to adapt to the regulations. In the intervening period, they will have to refer same-sex clients to other agencies that can offer non-discriminatory services.
i.e. the San Francisco solution will be imposed, as opposed to being agreed to.
"I start from a very firm foundation. There is no place in our society for discrimination. That’s why I support the right of gay couples to apply to adopt like any other couple," said Mr Blair. "And that way there can be no exemptions for faith-based adoption agencies offering public funded services from regulations that prevent discrimination."

The final amendments to the Equality Act are expected to come before Parliament next month and be passed before the Act is due to come into force on April 6.

New laws forbidding discrimination on the grounds of sexuality have caused extreme consternation among Catholic adoption services, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from allowing children to be placed with gay couples.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned Mr Blair last week that the agencies, which handle handle around 30 per cent of voluntary sector adoptions, would close rather than obey the legislation.

The debate about the so-called "conscientious objection" to the new legislation by Christian and Muslim groups led to strong disagreements in the Cabinet.

According to reports last week, Mr Blair was having to decide whether or not to support Ruth Kelly, the staunchly Catholic minister of Communities and Local Government, and offer a compromise to the organisations.

But an increasing number of ministers, including John Reid, the Home Secretary, and Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, publicly stated their opposition to an exemption for the religious organisations.
After the archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams voiced his support for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's stance objections to the statute last week, cartoonist Peter Brookes responded thus in Thursday's editions of The Times:

And, speaking of Rowan, the Anglican primate will be making an already-politically-charged visit here to Canada in the spring.