The left of the Labour Party is right, to precisely this extent. The Government would be wrong to make an exception to the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which come into force in April, for the Catholic (or any other) Church. If a law is necessary and correct, it must apply to all. But the intensity of the debate on this subject brings into question if this law is necessary or correct. I suggest it is neither.
Personally, I have no problem with gay couples adopting children. If they are suitable, responsible individuals, it is far better for a child to be cared for in a family home than in any kind of institution. Yes, the child will be teased about its unusual parents, but that itself will be a lesson in life. Every child is teased for something. However, I don't think the opportunities for suitable gay couples to adopt will be helped by this law.
No sensible gay couple would approach Catholic, Muslim or other religious agencies to arrange an adoption. A gay couple that did would be acting either mischievously or very, very stupidly. The Catholic Church has anyway said that if one of its agencies was approached, it would simply refer the couple to a secular agency. That is a reasonable, tolerant, approach.
Families offering children up for adoption via religious agencies are effectively expressing a preference that their children should be placed with a family from that religion. They are certainly placing their trust in the relevant Church. Have they no right to do that? If not, why not? What has the State to do with that choice?
Laws are not for the purpose of reeducating the masses. Attempts to use the blunt instrument of law for such purposes are very likely to backfire. The only sensible use of law is for the prevention of carefully-defined, substantive harms which cannot otherwise be avoided. Laws are not magic. They need widespread support and willing enforcement. They are certainly not useful for the avoidance of hurt feelings. Indeed the best way to avoid hurt feelings is (like the teased children adopted by homosexual couples) to develop a thick skin. Far too many in our country are far too ready to take offence. They want to be victims, because victimhood is now - pathetically - the highest state of grace.
There are more than 150 adoption agencies that are happy to place children with gay couples. There are about 30 Catholic agencies (and presumably various other agencies organised by religious bodies) which are not. Why would rational people want to compel that minority? Especially when those people are supposedly acting in the interests of a once-repressed minority?
When homosexuality was legalised (very sensibly) we accepted that, as a matter of law, what consenting adults do in private is their own business. As a libertarian, I could not agree more. But we did not compel people who considered homosexuality to be sinful, unpleasant or just gross to change their opinion. Laws can't do that. People are entitled to their views.
To their credit, the religious people who do not want to be compelled to place children for adoption with "unrepentant sinners" are not seeking to impose their views on anyone else. They are just asking to live by their own consciences and by what they believe to be God's laws. Unless they can be shown to be doing demonstrable harm, they should be left to do so.
The way in which this debate is being presented in the media is most unfair. The intolerant people here are not the Catholics or other religious people (for once). The intolerant ones are those who insist that it is so offensive for anyone to consider them unsuited to adopt, that they must be compelled by law to change that view (or at least pretend to do so).
That is a moral outrage and a very poor basis for law.