Home > Foster Care > [Australia – New South Wales] – The Australian – “Politicians refuse to act after churches win right to discriminate against gay foster parents”

[Australia – New South Wales] – The Australian – “Politicians refuse to act after churches win right to discriminate against gay foster parents”

BOTH the NSW government and opposition have ruled out any changes to the state’s anti-discrimination laws in the wake of a ruling that charities could bar gay couples as foster carers on religious grounds.

In a decision that will open the way for other religious charities to refuse gay couples access to their services, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled that Wesley Mission’s foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, had proved an exemption under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act allowing it to discriminate against homosexual couples, reported The Australian.

Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church assembly, argued that providing foster care services to gay couples would put at risk its financial and volunteer assistance from members of the mission who adhered to the doctrine that a monogamous heterosexual partnership was “the norm and ideal of the family”.

The decision overturned a ruling that ordered Wesley Mission to take steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination after refusing services to a gay couple.

NSW’s Anti-Discrimination Act – along with similar acts in most states – provides a series of exemptions for religious bodies. The exemptions apply specifically to the ordination and training of priests and ministers.

However, an extremely broad, non-specific exemption also applies to “any act or practice” of a religious body that conforms to that body’s doctrines.

The Administrative Decisions Tribunal described the ability of a religious group to prove an exemption to the act as “singularly undemanding” and noted that “this may be a matter which calls for the attention of parliament”.

However, a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said yesterday that the legislation struck the right balance between protection from discrimination and the right to religious freedom.

“It is not envisaged that there will be changes to the current exemptions in relation to religious institutions,” the spokesman said.

NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell also ruled out yesterday any move to push for legislative change on the issue if the Liberals win government next March.

Religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws are also being tested in Victoria in an appeal before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which must decide whether it was lawful for the Christian Brethren to refuse to allow a gay youth suicide prevention group accommodation at the Christian Youth Camps’ Phillip Island Adventure Resort.

NSW passed laws earlier this year that allowed gay couples to legally adopt children, but allowed church adoption agencies the right to refuse to provide services to gay couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

[Source: Original Article]

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