It seemed as if it was all over for the UK's 11 Catholic adoption agencies. After the UK government passed legislation in 2007 making it impossible for adoption agencies in receipt of public funds to refuse same-sex couples the right to adopt, one by one they folded, declared independence from the dioceses, or merged with others. All, that is, except Catholic Care in the northern diocese of Leeds.
The decision by the British Government not to exempt the adoption agencies from the Sexual Orientation Regulations SORs) was a major victory for the gay rights lobby and secularists. It sent a chill down the spine of the bishops of England and Wales, and was seen as a turning point in relations between the Church and the Labor Government. The three Catholics who were then in Cabinet afterwards resigned -- although not immediately and at different times.
So the decision by a judge today agreeing with Catholic Care that it should be exempt from the SORs on legal grounds could prove highly significant. By allowing Catholic Care’s appeal and ordering the Charity Commission to reconsider the case in the light of his judgement, the judge may just have opened a route back for the Catholic adoption agencies.
The clash between anti-discrimination laws and religious freedom is new in Britain, and suggests that secularism has taken root in the leadership of the UK's political parties. Catholics battling in Cabinet in 2007 over the issue were amazed at how little understanding their colleagues had of the importance of balancing the various rights involved.