Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien has resigned as president of an adoption agency after it decided to consider applications from same sex couples looking to adopt children.
St Andrew’s Children’s Society, of which Cardinal O’Brien has been president since 1985, says it wants to recruit adoptive parents from “a broad spectrum of people”, including same-sex couples, in compliance with the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs).
Cardinal O’Brien has in the past argued that children “need a male and a female role model in a permanent relationship”.
Commenting on his resignation, Cardinal O’Brien said: “The interests of children must always be paramount, and I would hope that the staff of St Andrew’s Children’s Society Ltd will continue to work to ensure this in the years that lie ahead.”
St Andrew’s, which has been independent from the Roman Catholic Church for 16 years, expressed its “regret” at the Cardinal’s decision to resign, but defended its position.
A spokesman said: “We believe we need to be able to recruit adoptive and foster carers from as broad a spectrum of people from our community as possible without discrimination.”
Although St Andrew’s has chosen to break with the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, a number of other agencies are seeking legal solutions which will allow them to continue placing children with married couples only.
Scotland’s other Roman Catholic adoption agency, St Margaret’s Adoption and Child Care Society in Glasgow, is thought to have altered its constitution so that its religious character – including its beliefs about marriage – will be protected under religious equality legislation.
St Margaret’s and St Andrew’s reportedly account for 20 per cent of all Scottish adoptions.
When the SORs came into law, religious adoption agencies were denied an exemption to cater for their beliefs about marriage. They were given an extended deadline by which to comply, but it ends in the new year when they will be subject to the laws.
Earlier this year, First Minister Alex Salmond said the Scottish Government intended to make sure these agencies were not “forced out of the system”, but did not state clearly how this could be done.