Promoting premarital sex, not homosexuality, was the reason a Christian Brethren-owned adventure resort refused a gay youth group accommodation in 2007, a Melbourne court heard yesterday.

The Victorian Supreme Court of Appeals heard opening comments on Wednesday from legal counsel representing Christian Youth Camps Ltd (CYC) and Cobaw Community Health Service, which runs WayOut, a rural youth group for same-sex attracted young people.

CYC are appealing a discrimination ruling from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in 2010 after Justice Felicity Hampel ruled CYC had refused the young people based on their sexual orientation and ordered CYC to pay the youth group $5,000.

In June 2007, former WayOut organiser Sue Hackney spoke to Mark Rowe from the adventure resort, who refused to accept her booking over the phone.

Legal counsel representing CYC, Joseph Santamaria QC told the Court of Appeals Rowe did not oppose gay people attending the resort but he had not agreed with WayOut’s “syllabus” which he believed encouraged sex outside of marriage.

Santamaria said Rowe had rejected the booking because his religious beliefs opposed the promotion of premarital sex.

He said Justice Hampel’s ruling did not reflect Rowe’s intentions.

Debbie Mortimer SC, legal counsel for WayOut, rejected Santamaria’s claim and said Justice Hampel had “comprehensively rejected” the notion Rowe had denied the group on the grounds of promoting premarital sex.

She said CYC’s counsel were appealing the decision “not because the evidence is not there but because they don’t like the answer”.

In 2010, Justice Hampel ruled: “In my view, the effect of Mr Rowe’s evidence is that the reason for his refusal to accept the booking was because of his general objection to homosexuality, applied, in the circumstances with which he was presented in the telephone conversation with Ms Hackney, to this group, comprising young people who were same sex attracted, or who had a personal association with people identified by their (same sex) sexual orientation.”

“The effect of Mr Rowe’s evidence was that identifying as same sex attracted, living openly as a same sex attracted person, and engaging in same sex sexual activity constituted promotion of homosexuality or a homosexual lifestyle.”

The hearing continues today.

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