At the latest appeal in Catholic Care’s long-running battle against the commission’s refusal to allow it to change its objects, Emma Dixon, for the regulator, said the charity’s attempt to justify exclusion on the grounds that the benefit to children needing adoption would outweigh the detriment to gay couples could have wider ramifications.
"A balance of that sort between benefit and detriment is not by itself the test for justifying discrimination in this context or any other," she said.
"Were it so, it could be seen that the provision of any service by a charity on a discriminatory basis could be justified on the grounds that the benefit to the majority group receiving the service will outweigh detriment to the minority group."
Dixon said that the charity tribunal had been right in its ruling in April 2011 that Catholic Care had failed to establish "weighty and convincing" reasons for preventing gay couples from using its adoption service.
The hearing is Catholic Care’s fourth appeal against the commission’s decision in 2008 that prevented the charity from limiting its adoption service to heterosexuals.
The charity has argued that if it is forced to allow same-sex couples to use its services, it would no longer receive church funding and would be forced to close.
It has argued that it is entitled to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality under Section 193 of the Equality Act 2010 if it is deemed a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".
Dixon said that the private prejudice of a charity’s donors is not sufficient reason for an organisation to discriminate in its services.
She told the hearing that while placing children for adoption was a legitimate aim, excluding gay people from the service in order to continue to receive church funding was "tainted by discrimination" and could not therefore be considered legitimate.The hearing, which has been taking place at the Rolls Building in London before Mr Justice Sales, was due to end today.