Churches set to lose appeal on UK gay adoption law

By Jeremy Lovell
Reuters
Thursday, January 25, 2007; 9:50 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - A bid by the Catholic and Anglican Churches in Britain to exempt Catholic adoption agencies from being forced to place children with gay couples got Muslim backing on Thursday but still looked set to fail.

The Equality Act, which comes into force in April, is designed to stop discrimination against gay and lesbian couples wishing to adopt a child, but the Church leaders called for an exemption for Catholic adoption agencies on faith grounds.

On Thursday, Muslims voiced support for the exemption and described the government's apparent rejection as absurd.

"The Muslim Council of Britain fully supports the principled stand taken by the leaders of the Catholic and Anglican Churches," it said in a statement, adding that homosexuality is banned in Islam.

The battle between Church and state involved British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was said to have favored an exemption, risking a revolt by most of his ministers and underscoring the weakness of his position in the closing months of his premiership.

But on Thursday Education Minister Alan Johnson, who has responsibility for adoption, said the government, including Blair, saw no case for special treatment.

"I don't see a case for exemption and I don't think the prime minister does," he told BBC radio.

"The case for no exemption has been made very eloquently. The strength of that argument suggests that we cannot introduce legislation to protect gays and lesbians against discrimination and at the same time allow that discrimination to continue."

Blair said a decision would be taken next week and that while he favored the right of adoption by gay couples he also wanted to ensure the Catholic agencies continued their work.

"I have always personally been in favor of the right of gay couples to adopt. Our priority will always be the welfare of the child," he said. "I am committed to finding a way through this sensitive and difficult issue."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, and Archbishop of York John Sentamu wrote to Blair on Wednesday backing a call by the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor for the special exemption.

Murphy-O'Connor's letter to Blair argued that to force Catholic agencies to place children with gay or lesbian couples went against the Church's teachings.


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