Edmonton couple wins fight to adopt after province reverses decision based on religious beliefs

An Edmonton couple can now adopt a child after the province reversed its initial decision based on their traditional views of marriage and sexuality.

Adoption application initially rejected because of traditional views of sexuality

Lawyer John Carpay said the adoption rejection reversal is a reminder that governments can't discriminate against people based on religion.

An Edmonton couple can now adopt a child after the province reversed its initial decision based on their traditional views of sexuality.

The couple, who are evangelical Christians, are not identified in court documents. They took legal action last November when their adoption application was rejected on the basis that their religious views did not support LGBT identities.

On Tuesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms released a letter from Alberta Children's Services that informed the couple their case had been reviewed and the adoption rejection reversed.

"The initial decision is rescinded and your application is now approved," states the letter from a senior manager.

The couple's lawyer, John Carpay, said they are "thrilled." And despite what they've been through, "that has not diminished their enthusiasm for adopting a child," Carpay added.

"It's positive that governments are reminded that they cannot discriminate against people on account of religion," he said.

The news came after the couple filed an application seeking a judicial review of their rejected adoption application.

One of the prospective parents, who was adopted as a newborn, had long considered adopting a child but had "a compassionate interest in adopting older children," according to judicial review application documents.

When asked by a caseworker how they would handle a child questioning his or her sexuality, the couple indicated that "in accordance with their sincere religious beliefs, they would provide such a child with loving guidance and the support such a child needed."

Couple told rejection was final

The couple explained that "they understand children will decide for themselves what to think and how to behave," the document states.

Initially, Catholic Social Services, which conducted the adoption application assessment, recommended the adoption be approved. But in March 2017 another letter informed the couple the recommendation had been reversed because they "would be unable to 'help' a child" with sexual identity issues.

In a meeting two months later, a caseworker told the couple that Child and Family Services considered their religious beliefs about sexuality "a 'rejection' of children with LGBT sexual identities," and claimed that this view was the "official position of the Alberta government."

The decision was final, they were told.

Carpay said that many Canadians, including Jews, Muslims and Christians, hold "traditional beliefs" that sexuality is only expressed in marriage between one man and one woman.

"I find it baffling that some people cannot grasp that you could love your child but disagree with their behaviour," Carpay said.

CBC requested comment from Alberta Children's Minister Danielle Larivee or her press secretary.  Instead a statement was issued by the department confirming the adoption rejection was rescinded.

The government "respects the rights and freedoms afforded to all Albertans under the Charter, including freedom of belief as well as equality rights," the email said. "Families are not denied adoptions based on religious beliefs, and a diversity of belief systems can be found in the Alberta families and homes that have been approved to adopt a child."