While media reports suggest that Tony Blair will refuse exemption of churches from a new gay-rights law, a statement says he’s not yet decided. This as the Catholic Church threatens to close its adoption agencies: the Church has said that it would rather end all its adoptions in the UK, rather than be forced to allow adoptions by lesbian and gay couples.
Catholic and Anglican leaders have been lobbying the Prime Minister to be exempted from the Sexual Orientation Regulations which are set to come into effect in April. The law aims to ensure that gays and lesbians are not discriminated in any way in the provision of goods and services.
Media reports have suggested that Blair has sided with MPs who believe that it would be unethical to grant exemptions from the law to any group. However, in a statement realised by Blair’s office, he says that he has not yet made up his mind on the matter:
“I have always personally been in favour of the right of gay couples to adopt. Our priority will always be the welfare of the child.
“Both gay couples and the Catholic agencies have a high level of success in adopting hard-to-place children. It is for that reason we have taken time to ensure we get these regulations right.
“How do we protect the principle of ending discrimination against gay people and at the same time protect those vulnerable children who at the present time are being placed through, and after-care provided by, Catholic agencies, who everyone accepts do a great job with some of the most disturbed youngsters?
“We will announce a decision next week and then vote, probably next month. I am committed to finding a way through this sensitive and difficult decision.”
Despite the statement, UK Gay rights group Stonewall has already said that it “warmly welcomes today’s media reports that ministers have decided not to allow Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of new discrimination laws.”
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said that, “This is a triumph for 21st century tolerance over 19th century prejudice. 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.”