Friday, March 2, 2007
Discrimination and/or Religious Freedom in the U.K.?
As debate about legalizing same sex marriage and civil unions continues in the U.S., in the United Kingdom, where gay civil unions have been recognized since 2004, adoption is the new flashpoint. There is no doubt that adoption by gay partners is legal in the U.K. The question, rather, is whether individuals and agencies involved in the adoption process can opt out of facilitating these cases on the basis of religious objections to gay partnerships. Thus far, the answer is no. The BBC reported today that a civil magistrate who claims that his obligation to approve adoptions by gay partners violated his religious freedom and forced him to quit his job has lost his discrimination claim before an employment tribunal. With new regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation issued under last year’s Equality Act already in effect in Northern Ireland and due to go into effect across the country in April, the Catholic Church and others also sought exemptions permitting their agencies to avoid handling gay adoption cases, to no avail: Blair announced at the end of January that “there is no place in our society for discrimination” and no exemptions would be granted.