Religious Exemption Sought for Gay Adoption Law

A state law requiring equal treatment for gay couples seeking adoption services has prompted Catholic Charities to give up seeking adoptive homes for children. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney now supports exempting religious groups from anti-discrimination laws. Monica Brady-Myerov reports.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.

In Massachusetts, the Catholic Church is getting out of the adoption business. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

The church has long been a leader among agencies arranging for private adoptions. But now the state says that gays have the same right to adopt children as everyone else does. And the church objects. Rather than help gays adopt, it will stop adoption services altogether.

From member station WBUR, Monica Brady-Myerov reports.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV reporting:

Catholic Charities in Boston has been helping kids find permanent homes for a century. In the last 20 years, it's placed 720 children, 13 of them with gay couples. When Massachusetts bishops became aware of the practice, Catholic Charities said it could not reconcile the teachings of the church with the state's fairness laws, and it discontinued its entire adoption service. Father Brian Hehir is president of Catholic Charities in Boston.

Father BRIAN HEHIR (President, Catholic Charities, Boston): What we're all sad about are the children. We love working with these children who need help. So it's a sad but necessary decision for us.

BRADY-MYEROV: Catholic Charities specialized in finding homes for children with physical or emotional problems. One of the children they placed was a ten-year-old boy with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.

At the kitchen table in her home in north of Boston, Linda Reedy(ph) helps her son separate his medications into daily doses. She and her partner adopted their son from Catholic Charities. Reedy says its decision to end adoption stings.

Ms. LINDA REEDY (Gay Parent): It's as if a whole segment of the population of the country and maybe the world are telling me personally that I'm not fit to be a parent, when I know that every day, my whole life is about being a parent.

BRADY-MYEROV: The American Psychological Association has endorsed gay adoption. Joyce Kaufman, of the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, says the church is condemning homosexuals at the expense of children.

Ms. JOYCE KAUFMAN (Co-Chair, Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association): I just think it's very sad that rather than abide by those laws, they've just pulled out altogether. And who is going to suffer, are all those children.

BRADY-MYEROV: Kaufman says it sets a disturbing precedent. Father Larry Snyder is president of Catholic Charities USA, the national umbrella organization. His legal team is asking the 104 agencies that facilitate adoptions if they are required to place children with same-sex couples?

Father LARRY SNYDER (President and CEO, Catholic Charities USA): In states where if we find out that the law will require them to be open to placing with same-sex couples, that would be a place where I don't think our agencies will be able to continue.

BRADY-MYEROV: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco is examining its position after its former archbishop wrote from Rome to tell the group not to place children in homosexual households. According to the Human Rights Campaign, eight states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to adopt. And in 15 other states, it's permitted at a judge's discretion. Gay adoption is banned in three states. Catholic Charities USA says many of its agencies refer gay couples to other adoption providers. And they hope the practice can continue.

John Garvey is dean of the law school at Boston College, a Jesuit school. He says Catholic Charities should be allowed to continue adoptions, only to heterosexuals on religious grounds, even though it is discrimination.

Mr. JOHN GARVEY (Dean, Law School, Boston College): I've heard people say that it isn't really that central to what the Catholic Church is about. That if this were a matter of what folks did in church on Sunday, then that might be a different matter. But I disagree with that. I think that really what is at the heart of the Christian religion is the Beatitudes, taking care of the poor, the underprivileged, widows and orphans.

BRADY-MYEROV: Garvey points out courts have exempted religious organizations from the Civil Rights Act in other matters. He thinks the Catholic Church should have the same leeway on adoptions.

For NPR News, I' Monica Brady-Myerov in Boston.

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