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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Catholic Adoption Agencies Won't Be Penalized For Refusing Gay Applicants

Policy Violates Anti-Discrimination Laws

BOSTON -- Catholic adoption agencies in Worcester, Fall River and Springfield won't be penalized by the state for refusing to consider gays as adoptive parents, though their policies violate state anti-discrimination laws.

The general counsel for the state Department of Early Education, which regulates adoption agencies, said the agency isn't taking action because Romney has proposed legislation that could allow the agencies to refrain from considering gays on religious grounds.

"We're going to wait and see how the legislation plays out," attorney Constantia Papanikolaou told The Boston Globe.

Romney proposed the bill after Catholic Charities announced last month it was ending its adoption services because it couldn't reconcile state law with church teachings, which consider gay adoption "gravely immoral."

Papanikolaou said the state hasn't received any complaints from the public about the adoption practices at Catholic Charities in Worcester and Fall River, or Brightside for Families and Children in Springfield. Catholic Charities is part of the local diocese and Brightside in Springfield is run by the Sisters of Providence Health System.

Gary Buseck, legal director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston, said his group hasn't publicly protested because the state will have a new governor next year, and GLAD expects that person to vigorously enforce the state's anti-discrimination laws.

All of the candidates for governor oppose an exemption for Catholic groups from anti-discrimination laws.

"The illegality shouldn't be allowed to stand," Buseck said, adding GLAD has chosen a strategy of "watching and waiting," rather than confronting state officials.

The issue came to the forefront earlier this year, when Catholic Charities of Boston said its adoption services had to accept gay applicants to comply with state law, but Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and the three state bishops said placing children with gay parents violated church teachings.

The church leaders asked the state to exempt Catholic agencies from the anti-discrimination law, but lawmakers said such a proposal would never pass the Legislature, and Romney said he didn't have the authority to unilaterally grant an exemption.

In March, Catholic Charities of Boston ended adoption services. Since then, the other Catholic social service agencies have said they won't accept gay applicants.

Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said the Romney administration was "picking and choosing" the laws it enforces. She said Romney invoked a 1913 law to stop the state from marrying gay couples who are from out of state, but is ignoring a more recent law that protects gays from discrimination in the area of adoption.

Catherine Loeffler, executive director of Catholic Charities of Worcester, said her agency isn't harming gays or lesbians because it simply refers these applicants to other agencies. She said her organization wants to help children, while keeping its work "in harmony with Catholic teachings."

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And who says that Massachusetts has lost ALL common sense, just most of it. ~ Q

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