Tell the PM

The news is full this morning of the story that a prominent cleric has written to the government threatening to close adoption agencies if the government proceeds with its perverse idea that everyone in the UK should be treated equally. So, unless the government does what he wants, he will take actions which will cause harm to children. This seems to me to be a curious moral position to adopt.

Anyway, with all that in the air, why not consider signing the petition to T Blair urging him to prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, services and facilities on the grounds of sexual orientation for the remainder of the UK at the earliest point possible.

I’ve signed it. You can do so here:


  1. asphodeline says

    Among the many job application forms I have been filling out recently, I had one (using ticky boxes) asking for my sex and sexual orientation or a box to refuse the information. I have never refused info before on such forms but this really annoyed me. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the job requirements. It could have been for non-discriminatory purposes but not a question I’ve come across before.

  2. Where’s the story–if you’re talking about Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, I heard he said that the adoption agencies had a policy to refer gay couples elsewhere. I didn’t realise they would close.

    Personally, I’m not sure I would want gay parents–think of the ribbing at school!

  3. kelvin says

    Story at this link and elsewhere

  4. Thanks, Kelvin.

  5. Anonymous says

    whatever the arguments are on the various side re. this subject, it is concerning that children are being used as pawns in yet another political game.
    There is very little mention on how they could be affected or how they could benefit.
    They are not posessions to be bantered over, but beautiful human beings. Their right is to be brought up in a loving, caring, environment.

  6. While I disagree with the RC position, I cannot believe how Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has been so badly misrepresented by his fellow Christians and sadly Kevin you have joined the latter group.

    He quite specifically said that the RC Church will not “wilfully close” the adoption agencies, but he also has said that the Church cannot in conscience accept government funding (78% of their total nationally) if it is conditionally on placing children with couples outside marriage – a policy that currently applies across the board with Catholic agencies (and therefore applies to an unmarried heterosexual couple).

    The Government’s clumsy SOR legislation will require them to breach this principle (which has been accepted for many decades by previous governments) but only with regard to gay or lesbian couples while continuing to accept that they do not place children with unmarried hetersexual couples – where is the government’s consistency in that!!.

    Without the money there is no way that the agencies can continue and therefore some may have to close at least in the short term. Even if the Church could find the money there would remain the question of whether they could be licensed as an adoption agency under the legistlation. That is why the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church of England Bishops have called for a change in the legistlative framework. PS I signed the petition some days ago!

  7. Andrew says

    This is a complicated question, and has little to do with either discrimination or religion.

    On one hand, it is widely accepted that the best environment for children to grow up is one where they have close contact with two role models, one of each sex. A child placed with two women, who might be excellent pseudo-parents, still misses out by not having a father.

    On the other hand, is it not better for a child to be with a loving couple, of whatever sort, rather than being left in an orphanage?

    So I think that homosexual couples should not be barred, absolutely, from adoption; but suitable heterosexual couples should get priority.

    I won’t be signing the petition.

  8. Vicky says

    I agree with the last comment that this is a difficult issue. The notion that research has identified that the best solution to parenting is one male and one female parent is itself problematic. Firstly, one needs to consider how attachment and bonding occur within the triangle of two parents and one child. Whilst a baby and biological mother clearly have a process of mutual attachment, the process for the second parent is slightly more nuanced and relates more to ‘bonding’. At present the evidence for this relationship predominantly comes from heterosexual research because there just haven’t been the numbers of single sex couples with children to undertake a meaningful long term research study. So whilst we can bandy about the ‘research evidence’ let’s just remember that it is problematic.
    Another issue is the extent to which the misrepresentation of senior male clerics in the press reflects what people actually believe SHOULD be the case, ie that these clerics, however, subtle, should be stating a firm line with respect to gay adoption. Who then has the responsibility to challenge the ‘shoulds’ of belief outside the intellectual heights of theology. Subtlety is all very well, but at the end of the day the issue does boil down to whether or not the Churches can manage to overcome their prurient involvement in people’s bedrooms as a way of expressing Christian truth. It is interesting to me that the RC Church has shifted its focus on homosexuality from the acts pertaining to this, to the identity of the individuals. Penentential literature of the period before the 18th Century was only interested in specific actions as sins with respect to hoosexuality. The shift because of the medicalisation of sexuality has enabled this focus to be abstracted and expanded to the whole person and their identity – this may seem a subtlety but I find it far more scary that my identity is at issue and in some way a sin.
    So anyway Kelvin, good luck with your petition signing.

  9. kelvin says

    Many thanks to those who have commented. The letter in question can be found here.
    In the interests of ecumenism, there is also a letter from the two English Anglican archbishops here
    Tom, you helpfully point out that the funding of the adoption agencies come 78% from state funds. That focuses the question rather well I think. I would argue that the only criteria that can be applied when considering anyone for adoption are the best interests of the child. I don’t believe that anyone has a right to adopt a child. I do believe that people have a right to be treated equally when dealing with publicly funded agencies. What the government is suggesting, supported by a good many people, including some of those commenting here, is that there might be occasions in which the best interests of the child lie with adoption by a gay couple. I would argue that no government or public funding body should spend public money on adoption agencies that put their own doctrinal position above the consideration of what is in the best interests of the child.

    In a way, it is similar to the arguments about Evangelical Christian Unions and Universities. I believe with a passion that people have every right to whatever opinion or view that they want. However, I don’t think that public money should be spent on groups who wish harm on other people. Thus, for example, I don’t think that a University is compelled to fund directly or indirectly (for example by providing space) groups which promote a racist agenda. What is being worked through at the moment is whether or not narrow “christian” groups who have an anti-gay agenda should receive support from the public purse to pursue their ends. I’d rather they didn’t, and I don’t think I’m alone.

    Andrew, I wonder whether there is a danger of muddling up statistics with morals. After all, the family is statistically a most dangerous place to bring up a child, but few would argue that it is morally wrong.

    It is children’s best interests that count for everything here. I don’t believe that any child’s best interests are served by speaking of gay parents as “pseudo-parents”.

  10. Tom Allen says

    But I don’t beleive it is an anti-gay agenda – it is a pro marriage agenda from the Catholic perspective. I think the Catholic Agencies argument is that they have a substantial track record of finding homes with married couples for many of the “most difficult to place children”. I know one family where three daughter had been available for adoption for 3 years with a local authority agency who specififally referred her to the Catholic Agency who found two potential parents in a matter of weeks. So the Catholic agencies can argue that they have a particular niche – that they are quite prepared to cross refer and work closely with other agencies. The pragmatic issue is being lost here to childrens’ cost – but it is not Catholic doctrine which has changed or is causing it. Conscience cannot be overuled by law which is why the Churches are exempted from employment and other law.I don’t actually think that all this fuss is helping the cause of gay peoples rights either – but again it is the Government which is causing it by their failure to draft regulations which takes into account these long standing issues. It is simply inconsistent to suggest that Catholic agencies can’t say no to gay couples but can continue to say no to unmarried heterosexual couples – but that is what the regulations will do.

  11. kelvin says

    Tom, thank you for your reply.

    I’m struggling a bit to understand how a moral comparison can be made between a straight couple who choose to be unmarried and a gay couple of undisclosed legal status. The government has worked hard to give gay couples the option of a legal status which has very similar protection in law and very similar responsibilities under the law as marriage. I can see the argument that if Catholic agencies are allowed to say no to unmarried heterosexual couples then logically they should be allowed to say no to an “uncivil-partnered” gay couple. However, that does not seem to be what is requested by the archbishops.

    The argument that conscience cannot be overruled by law, seems to me to be an odd one. Doesn’t civil society depend utterly on the notion that we are free within the boundaries of legal restriction? One justification for such legal restraint is that it is a way of limiting some freedoms for the greater good and protecting other aspects of liberty. As such, isn’t every law an attempt to overrule someone’s conscience?

    I would argue that there may be events which a person can only respond to in conscience, by breaking law, but then that person has no choice but to bear the consequences of that too.

  12. Roddy says

    Erm, this is a bit tricky but here goes. I think I’m probably one of the few people who have had experience of dealing with adoption agencies.

    My wife and I are trying to adopt as we have tried and failed to have children ourselves. The hoops that we have to jump through are considerable in number and there to ensure we are suitable to adopt. We’re nowhere near the end yet. Conversely any couple who are biologically able to have children can have and keep them with less strict standards in place as to what you have to provide in terms of support and care to a child.

    My point? With the level of scrutiny of potential adoptive parents, either single or couples, gay or straight, that currently exists, you are highly unlikely to be accepted as an adoptive parent if you have any of the mental, physical or committment problems that many biological parents have. So can we please get away from the notion that a heterosexual married couple is the only environment in which to bring up children. It’s not, and I’ve had enough experience as a medical professional to tell you it’s not. Adoption by anyone, if suitable, is considerably better than non-adoption just because the adoptee/s don’t fit the ‘normal’ model.

    Finally, I don’t take Cardinal Murphy- O’Connor talking about child rearing and adoption very seriously given he’s a senior celibate priest who appears to have done a fine job in covering up child abuse by priests in his diocese when Bishop of Arundel.

  13. That last comment is helpful Roddy. Thankyou.

  14. zebadee says

    As the parent of an adoptive daughter who now has children of her own, who we love deeply, and also having an adoptive sister it does seem to me that the RC and CofE are as usual using events to support their unsupportable position.

    What matters is the child, always.

    The govenment in my opinion regarding this matter is totally correct and I pray that they will not give way on this matter.
    Sadly I expect nothing less than another capitulation to vested interests.

  15. Kevin – I surmise that the Cardinal and the Archbishops would disagree with your first paragraph about gay people in civil partnerships being “married” – not least because when the Church leaders raised questions about the civil partnership legislation being equal to marriage they were categorically assured by the Government (March 2005) that is was legally quite different. NO they said it is not marriage – even to the extent that if a person has been in a civil partnership (which need be a same sex parthership) which is dissolved and then chooses to get married they are not regarded as having been “divourced” for marriage purposes. So logically the Catholic Church is saying that a civil partnership is outside marriage, and they are supported by the government in that. So the issues are not just about anti-gay attitudes in the Church – indeed some English Catholic dioceses are remarkabl liberal on such matters. As regards law and conscience – well look at abortion law and doctors roles, look at military law and pacifist conscience, look at solicitors regulations and conscience, as John Sentamu ( a lawyer and former judge himself) has said conscience does play a part in the “formation” of good law. There is more too the issues than the possible homophobic dimension.

  16. I’ve spent a while pondering this today with a friend. While obviously I’d agree that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is undesirable, I would also question whether those who lag behind should be pressured into changing their behaviour through legislation at this particular time. Amongst other things, it reinforces the government’s “permission” to force issues of morality down people’s throats which I find at least as objectionable as discrimination in general.

    There are multiple angles to consider, as always: the church is one amongst several groups affected by this (with wedding photographers worried about having to invent lies about availability instead of just saying no, for example); in a contest between morality and legislation, actually I consider morals to win every time as the law is a human construct; and a *complete* examination of the subsequent nature of society if it goes ahead.
    So for me, the questions are 1) do we actually *need* this law, ie is there a problem that is not adequately covered by existing legislation? 2) is it based on representing the population or trying to change it? 3) is it precise to deal with offenders but not to inconvenience the masses? 4) are there no alternatives? After all, the government manages to lecture people through advertisements about their health, or lack of, concerning alcohol and tobacco products; might advertising not help here too?

  17. Andrew says


    By ‘pseudo-parents’ I meant ‘adoptive parents’ as opposed to biological parents.

    This has been an extremely interesting thread, and I’m glad I don’t have to take one position or the other. I see very clearly the arguments for both sides.


  18. kelvin says

    Tim, Morality and Law do not seem to me to be things in opposition. I’m puzzled that you think law a human construct but not morality.

    Generally speaking, human rights issues have tended need the reinforcement of law.

    Tom Allen is quite right in saying that the Catholic Church and not recognise Civil Partnership as marriage, and that the government maintained all along that it was not. However, the paradoxes of the position of the church leaders are extreme. How is it that the Roman Catholic Adoption Agencies have been able to work in a legal framework that allowed single gay people to adopt? It also seems very odd to me that any church can be opposed to a gay couple adopting on doctrinal grounds whilst being willing to assess atheist straight couples. And I still don’t understand the intervention of the 2 English Anglican Archbishops when the Church of England’s adoption agency has been able to place children with gay couples for some time.

    I would still disagree that the proposition that two people of the same gender offering to bring up a child has a moral congruence either to abortion or war.


  1. […] The Lords has passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations which will come into effect in April in Scotland. I’ve already written a lot about the attitude of certain religious adoption agencies to these, and I will not repeat that now. […]

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