The Charity Tribunal has ruled that Catholic adoption charities which refuse to serve gay couples are breaking the law.

Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) had wanted to take advantage of a clause the the 2007 Sexual Orientation Regulations which allows charities to discriminate by amending its charitable objectives.

It said it had a right to follow church teachings and refuse to consider gay couples.

However, the Charity Tribunal decided that the adoption agency must either take on gay couples or be forced to close.

Following the ruling a spokesman for the diocese said: “As the charities cannot provide unrestricted services without being in breach of their obligations to act in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, it seems likely that the charities will need to close their adoption services and a flagship service of the charities will be lost.

“We are concerned about the possible impact this will have on potential adoptive parents and children.”

Tribunal president Alison McKenna paid tribute to Catholic Care’s “significant contribution” to adoption services, but said it had to accept gay adoptive parents.

Many other Catholic adoption agencies have chosen to abide by new discrimination regulations and accept gay couples, although some have closed.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, including adoption.

Catholic agencies were given a two-year window in which to comply with the new rules, which ran out in December 2008.