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Magistrates cannot let their personal feelings influence same-sex adoptions

A Christian magistrate is to sue after he was sacked for making comments against same-sex adoption on the BBC.

The magistrate, who had previously been reprimanded after influencing an adoption because of his religious beliefs, said it would be better for a man and woman to be adoptive parents.

Adoption has changed in England and Wales, and, as same-sex couples gained the right to marry, The Adoption and Children Act of 2002, also gave them the right to adopt a child. Since the act came into force in 2005, research by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering has found that children adopted by gay or lesbian couples are as likely to thrive as those adopted by heterosexual couples.

Looking at important aspects of family relationships, parental wellbeing and child adjustment, the research found “markedly more similarities than differences in experiences between family types.”

However, despite this, only a small proportion of children in need of adoptive families are placed with same-sex couples. As such, the views of leading figures such as magistrates must be addressed. Not least because the law is clear on this issue.

The truth is, whatever the personal views of magistrates – which is an unpaid, public service role – they must deliver justice as required by the law. Regardless of whether or not they agree with it. They may not be qualified lawyers, but they do receive training and support to help them to do this. While, in this case, the magistrate was sacked because of comments he made, rather than any particular case, it is understandable that people might assume that he is prejudiced against same-sex adopters, bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

In taking legal action, the magistrate argues that he is being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. However, during his BBC interview, he stated that: “My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents.”

In making such a statement, he clearly demonstrated that he used his personal beliefs to inform his decisions as a magistrate, and ironically, to discriminate against others.

While it is satisfying to hear that the research proves that same-sex families are thriving, significant work needs to be done to ensure that the people with the power to create such families in the first place, do so in line with the law. Particularly because, no matter how the adoptive family is structured, new families cope just as well as traditional families with the big challenges that come with adopting children who have had a poor start in life.

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