The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel will allow the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene in a catholic adoption agency’s appeal against a decision by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that it must allow same-sex couples to use its services or lose its charitable status.
A decision by the SCAP earlier last month said the Equality and Human Rights Commission could intervene in the appeal made by St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society against the OSCR by assisting the panel in interpreting the Equality Act 2010.
The OSCR ruled in January this year that the Glasgow-based adoption agency must stop refusing applications from gay couples or lose its charitable status. The charity requested a review of the decision, but it was upheld by the regulator on 4 March.
St Margaret’s then appealed to the SCAP against the regulator’s decision and a hearing is due to take place in mid-September, a spokesman for the charity said.
A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is the statutory regulator of the Equality Act 2010, said it applied to intervene in the case on 5 July, in order to assist the Scottish SCAP "by providing our view on how the act should be interpreted".
St Margaret’s appealed against the application, arguing that the EHRC’s intervention was unnecessary and would lengthen the appeal process; a directions hearing was held on 7 August.
Following the hearing, the SCAP ruled that the EHRC could intervene in the case, in the form of a 5,000-word written submission.
A spokeswoman for the EHRC said the intervention would help to clarify the law, but not support the case of either side. "The intervention considers the meaning of discrimination in the Equality Act 2010, as well as considering the meaning of the charities exception in the Act and the religious exception," she said.
The OSCR was also required to send the charity a copy of the advice it received from the EHRC to help it determine its original decision and decision review by the 19 August, the SCAP decision said.
A spokesman for St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society said the charity did not consider an intervention by the EHRC necessary, but that it had to accept the SCAP’s decision.
"St Margaret's remains confident that the SCAP will, in due course, act with prudence and justice and allow the society to continue to provide its widely-recognised specialist skill in finding homes for some of Scotland's most disadvantaged children," he said.