BHA: Catholic Care loses case to discriminate against same sex couples

The Roman Catholic adoption agency Catholic Care has been told it cannot turn away same sex couples if it wants to keep its charitable status. Catholic Care, which is run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds, wanted its adoption service to be made exempt from relevant portions of the Equality Act 2010. However, the judge in the case ruled that the charity had failed to give convincing reasons why this should be allowed.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the decision, which makes clear that religious organisations may not simply ‘opt themselves out’ of abiding by equality law that binds all other groups providing public services.

The latest ruling by a judge in the Upper Tribunal, which is the equivalent of the High Court in the administrative justice system, follows rejections of the charity's case to gain permission to discriminate against same-sex couples by the Charity Commission and the Charity Tribunal.

The BHA campaigned in support of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007, which prevents discrimination by religious organisations on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including in adoption services. These provisions are now part of the Equality Act 2010, and that is the law which this Charity Tribunal was making its assessments in light of.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, 'This ruling sends a clear signal that religious organisations, including religious charities, providing public services may not simply opt themselves out of a law which prevents discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. When groups are providing public services, not least vital services such as adoption, it is legitimate to prevent unjustified discrimination, as the law seeks to do, in order to ensure that those services are equal, accessible and operate in the interests of those they are helping.

'Equality of individuals before the law is a cornerstone of a fair and good society, and a principle which has been upheld by today’s decision not to allow Catholic Care to discriminate against gay couples seeking to adopt.

'Catholic Care has for the third time failed to make a convincing case to allow them to breach equality law and discriminate in the provision of adoption services, and the judge's decision to throw out the case is to be welcomed. To have permitted an opt out from the law to allow discrimination on grounds of the organisation’s religious ethos and prejudices would be a failure to serve the children who need loving homes, as well as failing to uphold the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to be treated equally and with respect in the provision of services.'


For further comment or information, contact Pavan Dhaliwal at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the full Upper Tribunal ruling:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.