A Catholic adoption agency in Leeds is seeking a court judgment that would allow it to deny its services to gay couples
Catholic Care wants to change its charitable objectives so that it can lawfully turn down same-sex couples who want to adopt.
The charity, which finds new homes for “hard to place” children in Leeds, said donations would dry up, forcing it to close, if its request was denied.
Gay rights groups have called the action “astonishing”.
At the Upper Tribunal in London, Monica Carss-Frisk QC, for Catholic Care, told Judge Mr Justice Sales that support for the charity from the Catholic community was dependent on it operating in line with the church’s definition of the family.
She said the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds said church collections could not be sanctioned for an “open” adoption service.
Urging the judge to acknowledge the charity’s principled objections to placing children with same-sex couples, she added: “The alternative is that the services are not provided at all, to the detriment of children in need of adoption,”
Lawyers for the Charity Commission say ruling in favour of Catholic Care would breach equality and human rights laws.
Miss Carss-Frisk said the commission’s focus on the needs of gay couples instead of children was “tantamount to putting the interests of the helper before those of the helpless.”
Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for gay rights charity Stonewall, said: “No organisation in receipt of public funds – like any adoption agency – should be allowed to turn away members of the public on the basis of narrow organisational prejudice.
“We shouldn’t forget that it’s children who would lose out if the agency’s bid succeeds.
“Hundreds of children are adopted from care each year by brilliant gay parents offering love, stability and support.
“It’s astonishing that Catholic Care would prefer to have seen those children remain in care.”
Leeds gay rights campaigner Sarah Carmody added: “I completely respect the faith of the Catholic church but when that manifests itself to the detriment of children in great need then this is wrong and organisations religious or otherwise are not exempt from complying with the law.”