BY SIMON CALDWELL
A GAY MARRIAGE law has forced the Archdiocese of Washington to pull out of adoption and fostering.
The Archdiocese of Washington has announced it is ending its adoption and foster care service after 80 years because of a new state samesex marriage law. The service finds new families for about 12 vulnerable children in the Washington DC area a year.
The same-sex marriage bill was approved in December by Washington DC City Council with the only exemption for churches being that clergy would not be obliged to carry out wedding ceremonies. Gay married couples must be treated equally as heterosexuals in every other respect, including adoption.
Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the archdiocese, will hand over a total caseload of 43 children, as well as seven staff and 35 foster families, to the National Centre for Children and Families, a secular adoption charity, before marriage licences are issued from March 2. The agency had been paid about £1.5 million a year to run its adoption service and it would have lost its funding if it had not complied with the law.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington had fought for an exemption for the Church, which teaches that gay adoption is gravely immoral, so the agency could continue to assess only heterosexual married couples as potential adopters or foster parents.
Ed Orzechowski, president of Catholic Charities, said he was disappointed that the Washington DC state legislature would not give the archdiocese a way out. “Foster care has been an important ministry for us for many decades,” he said. “We worked very hard to be able to continue to provide these services. We regret that our efforts to avoid this outcome were not successful.” The decision mirrors the impact of the Sexual Orientation Regulations on Catholic adoption agencies in Britain. Since January 2009 these have forced the bishops either to relinquish control of their adoption agencies or to close them down. Pope Benedict XVI earlier this month implicitly criticised the regulations as a violation of the natural law that imposed “unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs”.
The Washington archdiocese is the third in the US to pull out of adoption in the last decade after Boston and San Francisco archdioceses closed their adoption services in the face of similar legislation.
But because it is the diocese that covers the American capital, ministering to such Catholic politicians as US Vice President Joe Biden, the loss of its adoption agency will be seen as a major blow to the American Catholic Church.
The only other US states to legalise gay marriage – Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa – either denied voters a referendum or saw the law changed by a ruling by a court. But in all 32 states where gay marriage has been put before the electorate, voters have said they do not want it. These include the liberal states of California, New York and Maine.
In the face of such defeats gay rights activists have initiated a lawsuit to persuade the US Supreme Court to declare same-sex marriage a right that will be upheld in federal law across the entire country.
Nick Herbert, a British Conservative Party frontbencher, last week told an audience in Washington that America should embrace the gay rights agenda further.
He said homosexuality may be “given by God” and hinted that the Church was wrong to oppose gay marriage and should support gay adoption.
He also said a future Tory government would legislate to promote “gay equality’”, including new laws on homophobic bullying and hate crimes.
The Tory environment spokesman told an American think-tank: “Whether it is given by God or set by nature, homosexuality isn’t nurtured by doting mothers or weak fathers. It isn’t a condition to be cured and it can’t be willed away through prayer.” Mr Herbert added: “We should not seek to prevent adoption by same-sex couples who may offer a love and stability that is absent from too many homes.”