The Charity Commission has refused two Catholic adoption charities' requests to change their objects.
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) and Father Hudson's Society argued that such a change would be in line with permitted exceptions in equalities law. The Equalities Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 permit charities to discriminate against certain sexual orientations on the grounds of "the provisions of a charitable instrument" such as a governing document.
The charities also argued that many of the donations they receive are given on the understanding that homosexuals are excluded from using their services. They said they would have to close if the commission rejected their applications.
But the regulator decided that the charity's beneficiaries were children rather than parents, so the exemption did not apply. The charities offered to redefine their objects as the advancement of the parents' health or human rights, or the relief of their need, but this wasrejected. The commission's judgement reads: "If there is a benefit to prospective parents, it is an incidental private benefit."
The charities are entitled to appeal to the Charity Tribunal.
Mark Wiggin, director of Catholic Care, said his charity would appeal if its trustees advised it to do so.
"Otherwise we will have no alternative but to close our adoption service because, from 1 January, we will need to be compliant with legislation that, up to that date, we have had an exemption from," he said.