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Catholics lose ground in gay adoption row
After much spin, threats of blackmail and swirling cassocks, it seems that for now, the Catholic church will have to accept gay adoptions.

Despite the Anglicans joining the fray, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, today confirmed reports that the Catholic church has lost its battle for special treatment over gay adoption rules.

The no-frills statement brings to an end weeks of speculation over the issue, fuelled by the idea that Tony Blair and the communities secretary, Ruth Kelly - were sympathetic to the concerns of the Catholic church. It seems that the apparent Catholic fringe have been forced to back down at the prospect a full-blown cabinet revolt.

Asked this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme whether he thought the government would resist calls for an exemption, Mr Johnson, who is also the minister for adoption, said: "Yes, I do."

The government asserted there was no case for an exemption when consultation began last year, he said.

"The primary concern, of course, has to be the children concerned in the adoption process and I very much hope the Catholic church does continue to provide the important service that they do.

"But if they don't, I think we can ensure that children are not disadvantaged by that. "And I cannot see a case for introducing legislation that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination on grounds of their sexual orientation and then allowing in terms, as part of public policy, that discrimination to continue."

Asked whether Mr Blair's view was the same, he said: "Yes, I think it is."

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has welcomed the Government's reported promise not to grant religious exemptions to the Sexual Orientation Regulations, but predicts a lengthy skirmish.

GALHA's secretary George Broadhead said: "The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will soon begin operating. It is an umbrella organisation trying to protect the rights of all minorities. It has religion and belief as well as sexual orientation within its remit, and this latest battle over adoption agencies shows just how difficult it is going to be to reconcile the two."

Mr Broadhead said: "This problem of religious homophobia is not going to go away. As individual discrimination cases arise, Trevor Phillips, the head of the new commission, will have to try to decide whose rights are paramount.

“In the area of equality, there can be no compromise - gay people must be given complete protection from aggressive religious homophobia. There must be no conscience clauses, exemptions or special arrangements anywhere in law that allow religious groups to discriminate where no-one else can."

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall said: "As you know, we’ve faced an exceptionally hateful and inflammatory campaign against our new ‘goods and services’ protections. This outcome is a huge success and we’re absolutely delighted at the government’s decision. The exemptions which Catholic bishops and others were demanding would have denied some of Britain’s most vulnerable young people a loving home, as well as stigmatising lesbian and gay parents and the many children they raise in stable, loving families.

"Today’s news is a real triumph for 21st century tolerance over 19th century prejudice. It is also a real tribute to the professionalism and dedication of so many staff at Stonewall. However, it would simply not have been possible without the support of so many people across Britain too."
Note: No trees were destroyed in the sending of this contaminant free message. However, I do concede, a significant number of electrons may have been inconvenienced.

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