The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has told a Catholic adoption agency that it must stop refusing applications from gay couples or lose its charitable status.
A report on the St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society by the OSCR says the charity fails the charity test and will lose its charitable status unless it complies with the Equality Act 2010, which outlaws discrimination against same-sex couples. It has until 22 April to comply.
The OSCR investigated the Glasgow-based agency, which is connected to the Roman Catholic Church, after it received a complaint from the National Secular Society.
The regulator found that the charity was prioritising applications from couples who had been married for at least two years. The inquiry report, published yesterday, says that "marriage is not available to same-sex couples and this constitutes direct discrimination".
The charity, which had an income of £486,164 in the year to March 2011, was also found to have failed the charity test because it did not provide public benefit.
The OSCR report says: "If the charity does not comply with the direction, OSCR will take steps to remove it from the Scottish Charity Register."
Martin Tyson, head of registration at the OSCR, said: "We have carefully considered the details of this case and the legal position is clear – the charity must take steps so that it does not discriminate unlawfully and can pass the charity test.
"This case was complex and we discussed matters at great length with the charity's trustees. We hope that the charity will respond positively and take the necessary action so that it remains on the Scottish Charity Register."
A spokesman for St Margaret’s said: "We have been informed by the OSCR of its findings. We will fully examine the contents of its determination and take appropriate legal counsel before responding."
In England, the Leeds-based adoption charity Catholic Care has been involved in a series of court hearings in a so far unsuccessful bid to force the Charity Commission to allow it to change its objects so it can exclude gay people from using its services.