The Internal Appeal Panel of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) has recently ordered that the case which found that the Wesley Mission had unlawfully discriminated against a same-sex couple when they refused to accept their application to become foster carers must be reheard.
The decision has been applauded by the churches, however, the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby believes the decision does not support the right of church-based agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.
The reason the matter is to be reheard is not due to the facts of the matter, but on the grounds that the ADT incorrectly defined the words ‘religion’, ‘doctrine’ and ‘adherents’ and made an order beyond its powers.
The question to be answered in this case is not whether Wesley Mission unlawfully discriminated against a same-sex couple when they refused to accept their application to become foster carers — that claim has been clearly substantiated — but rather whether Wesley Mission is entitled to discriminate on religious grounds.
The Wesley Mission is claiming an exemption from the Anti-Discrimination Act on the grounds that a monogamous heterosexual partnership within a marriage, being both an ideal and a norm, is a doctrine of Wesleyanism and that it was necessary to refuse a same-sex couple’s application to become foster carers in order to avoid injury to their believers.
Wesley Mission claims that the primary focus of its foster care service is the welfare and best interests of the child. By refusing to accept an application from a same-sex couple to become foster carers they are making an unfair and unfounded assumption that it would not be in the best interests of a child to be cared for by a same-sex couple.
By discriminating against potential carers because of their sexual orientation, they are denying children at risk and in need of a loving and stable home from an entire pool of potential carers, which, in a time when foster carers are in great demand, cannot be in the best interests of the child.
No one, gay or straight, has the absolute right to become a foster carer, however, the GLRL believes everyone willing should be entitled to have their applications assessed on their own merits.
Same-sex couples are also currently unable to apply to adopt under the Adoption Act.
The GLRL hopes that this case will have positive implications for adoption law reform.

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