Two Catholic adoption charities that were refused permission by the Charity Commission to change their objects to exclude homosexuals from adopting have appealed to the Charity Tribunal.
The cases are only the second and third lodged with the Charity Tribunal since it was launched in the spring. Father Hudson's Society and Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) argued that the change would enable them to take advantage of an exception in new equalities legislation that comes into force on 1 January.
The exemption permits charities to discriminate against certain sexual orientations on the grounds of "the provisions of a charitable instrument", such as a governing document.
The commission ruled that the exemption would not apply to these two charities because their beneficiaries were children rather than parents (Third Sector Online, 2 December). But it admitted that only the tribunal could make a definitive ruling.
The new law affects 11 Catholic adoption charities, seven of which have decided to comply with it. One has already closed its adoption service. Neither charity could be reached for comment.
Terry Connor, chief executive of the Catholic Children's Society (Arundel and Brighton, Portsmouth and Southwark), said his charity had decided very early to comply with the law.
He said Father Hudson's Society and Catholic Care were attempting an "unacceptable manoeuvre" to make discrimination overt by exploiting a loophole that was "clearly not in the spirit of the law".
He said that even if they were granted the exemption, they could still have problems because local authorities might have ethical and legal objections to working with discriminatory groups.
His charity will change its name to the Cabrini Society from 1 January and break its constitutional links with the Catholic Church. "The bishops in our dioceses made it clear it would be an embarrassment for them if we kept the word 'Catholic' in our title because they would be criticised by other factions in the church," he said.