Christian back in adoption job but can’t vote on cases

Mon, 27 Jul 2009

An experienced doctor whose views on same-sex adoption nearly saw her lose her council job has been reinstated but told she won’t get to vote on any adoption case.

Dr Sheila Matthews, who provides expert medical advice for an adoption panel, has been told that her position on same-sex adoption means she “is not fulfilling the full duties of a panel member”.

Although she will be allowed to continue providing medical reports on adoption applications, she will not be able to take part when the panel votes on each case.

Dr Matthews, who has sat on Northamptonshire County Council’s adoption panel for five years, says it is “inappropriate to place children in a household with same sex parents as the best option”.

Rather than debating the issue in each case, Dr Matthews suggested a compromise where she would abstain from voting on applications from gay couples.

She offered to continue preparing unbiased medical reports on such applications.

However, the council said her position violated its equality policy and threatened to drop her from the panel.

A council spokesman has now said: “We have told Dr Matthews that the county council has no objection to her continuing to provide medical advice to the adoption panel.

“However, we have told Dr Matthews that she cannot continue to act as a full member of the adoption panel with voting rights as she is not fulfilling the full duties of a panel member by refusing to vote on adoption issues regarding same sex couples.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre which supported Dr Matthews, welcomed the council’s decision to restore her job but said excluding her from any votes was “unsatisfactory”.

She said: “We are hoping the Council will see further sense and allow Dr Matthews to remain a voting panel member, giving advice on health matters directly to Panel and participating in discussions but with the freedom to abstain on the rare occasions where placement is proposed with a same sex couple.”

Dr Matthews said: “As a professional I have done a lot of reading around the subject and am satisfied that there are research findings which support my position that a same sex partnership is not the best family setting to bring up children.

“As a Christian and a paediatrician I believe that children do best with a mother and father in a committed, long term relationship.

“Therefore, I cannot recommend a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for, and as those on the Panel have a legal obligation to do what is in the best interest of the child, then I am not able to vote in favour of such placements”.

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