Fighting for the right to adopt from bigots

I’m a bit late with this post. It’s old news really, but I still have a few thoughts about this issue of Catholic adoption adoption.

I finally got round to reading last week’s edition of The Economist a couple of days ago, and they had a piece about the issue (link requires subscription I’m afraid), saying that:

…it steps into the mine-ridden terrain where liberty… runs up against equality

This face-off between liberty and equality vexes many. Indeed, who wouldn’t want liberty and equality to be present in a society? If one threatens the other, what a difficult choice to make.

Perhaps surprisingly, The Economist comes down on the side of equality in this instance. But I would have thought that it would be better to aim for liberty. After all, if a society is guaranteed liberty, at least there is still a chance that it could achieve equality. Meanwhile, if equality is the main goal of a society, there is very little chance of achieving liberty as well.

To illustrate this, think about the adoption row. If Catholic adoption agencies are told that they must allow gay couples to adopt, their liberty to decide who they can and cannot serve has been taken away from them. If, on the other hand, Catholic adoption agencies are left to do as they please, there is every possibility that they would one day allow single sex couples to adopt from them. After all, as The Economist notes:

Give it time

Part of the unease over the gay-discrimination rules is that they are new. It would not occur to many to defend the exclusion of black adoptive parents, for example. Churches, like societies, do change. Just as most Christians have reconciled themselves to lending money at interest and most Jews do not examine the labels in their clothes to see if they contain mixed wool and flax, so homosexual parents may come to seem another variety in the bewildering gamut of family structures.

Attitudes change over time. Surely one day even the bigoted Catholic church will find itself accepting homosexuality in much the same way that racism is now seen as abhorrent when not so long ago it wasn’t.

And I want to make it clear that I am not siding with the Catholic church here. I want to say it loud and clear: the Catholic church is a bigoted organisation. But it is for precisely that reason why I find these attempts to force Catholic adoption agencies to allow single sex couples to adopt from them bizarre. I mean, it can hardly be as if there is a huge queue of gay people waiting to adopt children from such a bigoted group.

It was like a few months ago when legislation was passed to allow gay people to stay in the guest houses of bigots. Because gay people were really banging the doors down waiting to share a roof with homophobes. Wow, you really released the shackles there.

Whatever happened to that good, liberal, democratic principle of “you are a fucking arsehole but I will defend your right to be a fucking arsehole” (I paraphrased that you know). As Will P says in a strongly argued post:

We agree to disagree. If they want to cite religious reasons for not letting me seek to adopt a child with a hypothetical future partner, then fine, I’ll go somewhere else…

So that I can go to lengths to which I’d never really bother to go to express who I am, devout members of various faiths (and the gay adoption issue is just one example of this, which is why I’ve pluralised that sentence) are no longer free to express their deeply-held religious principles. In short, in our quest to be ever more liberal, we have become illiberal. We are on a dangerous course: we must stop now.

Much of this debate feels like chippy score settling than anything else, much in the same way that the ban on fox hunting was more to do with annoying some toffs more than anything else. I don’t think this really has the interests of gay people at its heart.

This does put me in the slightly odd position of agreeing with The Devil’s Kitchen. Of course, Bookdrunk is right to criticise that Catholic Church for their stance on homosexuality. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Two people can have opposing viewpoints and they are allowed to disagree with each other. What’s wrong with accepting this and ending it there?


  1. Bishop Hill sums it up rather neatly in a post where he talks about liberalism – he cited DK’s stance on the Catholic adoption issue as a prime example. If you believe in liberty, then you accept that others have the liberty to do things of which you may disapprove. You have the liberty to voice that disapproval and the liberty to take your patronage elsewhere, but allow others to do as they see fit, so long as it harms none. Therefore, you agree with me as well.

  2. I’m never entirely comfortable with these kind of laws, but we have them, so shouldn’t they be applied equally to everybody.

    For instance, it would be illegal for a mixed race couple to be thrown out of a bar, because one was black and the other white. So why shouldn’t it be illegal to throw a gay couple out of a bar?

    Undoubtedly, there are few gay people racing to stay in Christian B&Bs, but how would you feel if you were one half of the couple famously refused a bed in Kinlochewe? If we give Christian B&Bs they right to opt out of the legislation, then why not everybody who has some particular prejudice?

    The same goes for adoption. What is more logical about giving a publicly funded adoption agency, that happens to be Catholic, an exemption from the rules, than giving a hypothetical BNP run homeless shelter the right to turn away muslims?

    As long as we have anti-discrimination laws, then they have to be applied equally.