March 12, 2006 -- Catholic Charities of Boston will stop placing children in adoptive homes after a century of doing so, saying it no longer wants to have to consider gay couples as parents, which it must do under the law.
Before announcing its decision to end adoption services this weekend, Catholic Charities of Boston quietly processed a small number of gay adoptions, despite strong opposition from the Vatican. Over the past two decades, more than 700 children have been adopted thanks to Catholic Charities of Boston. Of those, 13 were placed in the homes of gay couples.
"We find ourselves in a conflict, in which the religious and moral principles of Catholic teaching and practice clash with the political and civil regulations of the state," said Rev. Bryan Hehir, the president of Catholic Charities of Boston.
In Massachusetts, there are discrimination laws that force adoption agencies to look at all possible parents -- a proposition the group says goes against their beliefs. The Vatican has long held that gay adoption is "gravely immoral."
But John Budron disagrees. Budron, a gay man, has adopted two children with his partner, Tim Fitzgerald.
"You don't even know me," he said. "How dare you say I'm not a good parent?"
Budron and Fitzgerald, who live in Milton, Mass., and have been together for 20 years, adopted two children eight years ago and say they rescued them from childhood trauma.
"Our children came from a home that's not only abused and neglected, they then went on to a foster home that they're abused and neglected," Budron said. "How can anyone tell us that's better than where they are now?"
The couple said their love for unwanted children that makes them fit parents, not their sexuality.
But Garry and Toni Barnes of Columbus, Ohio, who've adopted nine children, say that sexuality is an issue.
"How can two men have a child -- or two women for that matter," Garry Barnes said.
The Barneses have actively campaigned against gay adoption in a state that is considering a bill that would ban such adoptions. They said they understand the decision by Catholic Charities -- pointing out that the world was very different when the agency first began finding homes for unwanted children.
"For 200 years of our nation, we knew what a family was: It was us; it was a mom and a dad," Barnes said. "Now, it's John and Jerry?"
"We do not hate gay and lesbian people, but we believe that they have made a choice," Toni Barnes said. "And children haven't had that choice yet, and they shouldn't be put in that position."
But as the November elections draw near, 16 states -- including Alaska, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- could have bills that would ban homosexual couples from adopting children.
Catholic Charities said it's encountered a dilemma "we cannot resolve." And one conservative group said it is easy to understand their decision.
"If you choose a situation where they're not going to have a mom and a dad, you're making that choice for them for the rest of their lives," said Charmaine Yoest PhD, who works for the Family Research Council. "And that's not fair to children."
But advocates of gay parents point out there are 119,000 children still waiting to be adopted in this country. All are in need of loving parents, regardless of their sexual orientation.