The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal may have dashed the hopes of two prospective gay foster parents’ of seeing justice for being discriminated against by the Wesley Mission’s fostering agency.
A previous verdict awarded the couple $10,000 in compensation and ordered Wesley Dalmar Child and Family Care to review its policy on gay foster parents and eliminate unlawful discrimination on the ground of homosexuality in its services.
Wesley Dalmar admitted discriminating against the couple but believed they had done so lawfully.
Wesley Mission applied to have the ruling taken to the Supreme Court with the intervention of the NSW Attorney General’s Office, however, the ADT blocked this as it would have placed additional legal costs on the couple, and undertook to review the decision itself.
In the original verdict, the ADT accepted that Wesley Mission was a body established to propagate religion, but did not accept the mission had proven that “monogamous heterosexual partnership within marriage is both the norm and ideal” was a doctrine of the Uniting Church because of the diversity of views on sexuality within the church.
Now the panel has instructed the tribunal to consider what the norm is among Wesleyans.
The couple may appeal, but Christian conservatives have already hailed the ruling.
Archbishop George Pell called it “a step in the right direction”, telling The Daily Telegraph, “It is important to protect people from unjust discrimination, but it is ridiculous to claim discrimination every time we show a preference for some people over others.”
Rev Fred Nile, who quit the Uniting Church over its liberal stance on homosexuality, praised Wesley Mission for standing up to the couple.
“I support the Christian policies of the Wesley Mission and urge the mission to faithfully continue its evangelical Wesleyan Biblical doctrine”, Nile said.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Benjamin Keats told Sydney Star Observer the decision was not necessarily a victory for the church.
“The matter is to be reheard on the grounds that the tribunal made errors of law. The appeals panel did not make any determinations on the facts of the matter and their orders do not in any way support the right of church-based agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples,” he said.
Keats said Wesley Mission was alienating a pool of potential carers at a time when there was great need for new foster parents.
“By discriminating against potential carers on the grounds of their sexual orientation, they are denying children the potential to be placed in a loving and stable environment,” he said.