COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Adoption body claims victory over gay ruling

JOHN PLUMMER

The woman who spearheaded a six-year drive to change the law on adoption has hailed last week's ruling as proof that small charities on minimal budgets can campaign effectively.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of BAAF Adoption & Fostering, co-ordinated the multi-agency pressure group which lobbied for an amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill.

The campaign ended in success last week when the House of Lords voted by 215 to 184 in favour of the Bill. It means same-sex couples will have the same right to adopt as married couples.

Although BAAF's goal was to extend the pool of potential adopters in response to a shortage, the issue whipped up emotive topics such as gay rights, the media fall-out from which threatened to derail the Bill.

BAAF, which began trying to influence the law when an adoption Bill was first drafted in 1996, survived the political storm by involving a wide range of organisations, including Barnardo's, the NSPCC, the Family Rights Group and the Association of Directors of Social Services.

After persuading the Government to allow a free vote on the issue, and receiving enough support from MPs to agree to the same-sex amendment, the Bill faced the prospect of falling at the final hurdle last week when it came before the Lords.

"The result is just absolutely brilliant," said Collier. "I was terrified that if the Lords voted against it the entire Bill, which contains some rules that are absolutely fundamental to the future of adopting, could have been ruined."

The campaign involved tactics such as commissioning a MORI survey to show the public's attitude towards same-sex adoption was positive - 67 per cent gave it their blessing - and a letter-writing initiative directed at MPs.

By keeping the issue in the spotlight, the charity has been able to sway a government that had opposed gay couples adopting.

"We've been able to exert real influence and prove that small charities can manage big campaigns," said Collier. "It wasn't particularly sophisticated or expensive. We developed it as we saw fit and invested an enormous amount of time and energy on it because it was something we believed in."

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