LGBT activists in the UK have expressed their shock following a court ruling allowing a Catholic adoption agency to discriminate against gay and lesbian parents.

The High Court in London ruled in favour of Catholic Care’s appeal to be exempt from the sexual orientation regulations, which means that it can continue to refuse to place children with same-sex parents.

The adoption agency, based in South Yorkshire, had previously vowed to rather shut its doors than be forced to give suitable gays and lesbians couples the same access to its children as heterosexual couples.

Mr Justice Briggs also ordered the Charity Commission, which had opposed Catholic Care’s appeal, to pay costs, thought to be over £100,000.

Gay rights campaigners were dismayed at the news, with gay rights group Stonewall saying in a statement that “It’s unthinkable that anyone engaged in delivering any kind of public or publicly-funded service should be given licence to pick and choose to service users on the basis of individual prejudice.”

“There should be no question of discriminatory behaviour by any organisation that benefits from the taxpayer,” it added.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s chief executive, Rev. Sharon Ferguson, described the decision as “unacceptable and outrageous”.

“Would Mr Justice Briggs have reached the same decision if Catholic Care had asked to be allowed to discriminate against couples on the grounds of their race or physical ability?” she asked.

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