The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (Oscr) investigated the practices of St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society in Glasgow, after a complaint from the National Secular Society, and found the charity was operating in breach of the Equality Act 2010.
The society gives priority to prospective adoptive parents who have been married for at least two years and wish to adopt within the framework of the Catholic faith. The Oscr report stated that: “[Because] marriage is not available to same-sex couples… this constitutes direct discrimination.”
The report continued that the organisation’s criteria for those who wanted to adopt was “unduly restricted” and concluded “the charity does not provide public benefit and it therefore fails the charity test”.
St Margaret’s has until 22 April to comply with the Equality Act, Oscr said. However, education secretary Mike Russell criticised the regulator’s decision. He said: “We do not believe that this outcome is in the best interests of the children St Margaret’s helps, who are in need of a safe and loving family home.
“St Margaret’s should be able to continue its valuable work and are actively and urgently seeking a solution. I will personally meet with representatives of St Margaret’s next week to discuss the best way forward.”
However Oscr’s head of registration, Martin Tyson, said: “We acknowledge the valuable service provided by this charity, but the fact is that all charities must comply with the law, including the Equality Act 2010. Where we find this is not the case, we have a duty to act.
“We have carefully considered the details of this case and the legal position is clear – the charity must take steps so that it does not discriminate unlawfully and can pass the charity test.”
“We hope the charity will respond positively and take the necessary action so it remains in the Scottish charity register.”
St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society is partly funded by the Catholic Church and the trustees of the charity include bishops from dioceses in the west of Scotland.
Alistair McBay, Scottish spokesman for the National Secular Society, said: “This kind of crude discrimination is no longer acceptable in our society – and that goes double where the discrimination is, in effect, being largely financed by the public purse.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church said it would take appropriate legal counsel before responding.