He [Blair] said he will work to find a solution that ends
discrimination against gays and also ensures the protection of vulnerable
children receiving help with adoption and after-care from Catholic agencies. Mr
Blair said: "There is one last aspect within the new regulations to resolve and
it concerns adoption. I have always personally been in favour of the right of
gay couples to adopt. Our priority will always be the welfare of the child." He
added: "Both gay couples and the Catholic agencies have a high level of success
in adopting hard-to-place children. It is for that reason we have taken time to
ensure we get these regulations right. How do we protect the principle of ending
discrimination against gay people and at the same time protect those vulnerable
children who at the present time are being placed through, and after-care
provided by, Catholic agencies, who everyone accepts do a great job with some of
the most disturbed youngsters. We will announce a decision next week and then
vote, probably next month. I am committed to finding a way through this
sensitive and difficult decision."
I wish him well in finding a way through this minefield because I am not sure there is one. I've discussed it often on 18 Doughty Street over the last few days and the level of vitriol it has engendered is deeply worrying. The very fact that I even dare to discuss it seems to offend some people. I think I can guess why. A glance at many of the 250 comments on THIS thread on ConservativeHome is also not particularly edifying. Indeed, it's prompted a piece in PINK NEWS. I saw a woman from the Catholic Church on Sky News earlier this week trying her best not to appear homophobic but she couldn't carry it off. What a sad state of affairs.
The problem with this legislation is that the Government does not appear to have thought it through properly, with the consequence that the PM is now having to make policy on the hoof. It is complicated by its sponsoring Minister Ruth Kelly being a devout Catholic and a member of Opus Dei. Her position looks increasingly untenable. As someone wrote this morning, she is a Catholic who happens to be a politician, not the other way around.
Out of 3,700 adoptions last year (in itself an incredibly low number), only 185 involved gay couples. My argument has always been that in an ideal world all children would be brought up by two loving parents. The norm is that they are brought up by parents of the opposite sex. the fact that the State endorses the adoption of children by gay parents is urely a crcucial factor in this debate. I understand that there are 60,900 children in care in this country. These kids need love and stability, whether it is in the home of a straight couple or a gay couple. A stable home environment with loving, responsible parents should be the priority for all of us - whether we are Catholic, Muslim, Anglican or of no religion at all. Each of these children would benefit from this environment rather than being in a care home.
I find it deeply offensive if anyone should suggest that gay couples are not capable of providing that love and stability. The underlying insinuation behind some of what the churches are saying on this issue is that kids who are adopted by gay parents are more likely to be led astray morally or even abused. they'll never say that outrightm but that's what some people still think. A very small minority of deeply religious - and otherwise totally compassionate - people still hold on to the view that homosexuality is a moral equivalent of paedophilia. A friend of mine rather cruelly said he's have more sympathy with that argument if the Catholic church got its own house in order on that subject.
I do not like compulsion, especially on moral issues. However, in this case I do not believe that you can say to one religious group: "It's OK, you don't have to obey the same law as everyone else". Perhaps to put it in perspective we should delete the word 'catholic' and insert the word 'muslim'. I suspect in that scenario we'd find that the very same people who are shouting loudest now, would be saying how outrageous it was for muslims to be granted an opt-out.
PS I realise this issue provokes strong reactions in people. Not everyone will agree with what I have written here. I switched off Comment Moderation on Sunday and so far I haven't had to delete any comments at all, so well done to everyone! Please be moderate in your language in this thread and let's have a proper debate without being too emotive.