MSPs approve gay adoption but Church vows to fight on
CONTROVERSIAL plans to allow gay and unmarried couples to adopt children were backed by MSPs yesterday.
The new legislation, which also provides more support services for adopted children, passed its first hurdle at the Scottish Parliament by 103 votes to eight following a passionate debate.
However, Christian groups and a number of MSPs remained implacably opposed to adoption by gay couples, and said they will fight the moves.
Peter Peacock, the education minister, said it was time to update the adoption process for the first time in 30 years.
He explained children needing homes were now older and from chaotic family backgrounds, but there were fewer adoptive parents coming forward.
To address these issues the Executive introduced the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill to open up adoption to a wider group. This includes unmarried and same-sex couples.
However the minister was quick to point out this involved no "moral shift" as single people can already adopt.
"No-one has a right to adopt and this Bill gives no-one the right to adopt," he said, as potential parents will still have to be rigorously assessed.
"The most important consideration has to be whether a couple is able to provide a lasting and loving environment in which to raise a particular child."
Speaking as the only openly gay parent in the chamber, Margaret Smith, the Liberal Democrat MSP, said it was easier to bring up children as a couple - whether unmarried or same-sex - than alone.
However a number of MSPs voiced concern for putting children in an "unusual situation", among them Roseanna Cunningham of the SNP.
"I can't see how overturning tens of thousands of years of nature's design moves us forward," she said.
Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, who last week wrote a letter to MSPs claiming the "distressing legislation" was a "violation of family life" said the Catholic Church will fight on.
He said: "The result is very worrying, especially for children who will be caught up in these disturbing adoption processes. But there are another two stages of the bill yet to go through Parliament, so this file is far from closed. The Church is not going to stay quiet."
Dr Gordon Macdonald, parliamentary officer for Christian group Care, said his organisation was also against the changes.
But this met with anger from many MSPs. Ian Smith, another openly gay MSP, said children should not be disadvantaged because of the "prejudices" of the Catholic Church.
Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP and campaigner on gay rights, said opposition to the reform was an "implicit insult" to same-sex couples who were already parents.
The Bill also allows children who cannot return to their natural family and who may not be suitable for adoption to stay indefinitely with a foster family.
However Barnardo's and other children's charities called for legislation on fostering to limit the number of children to three per family.
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