New NSW premier Kristina Keneally has restated her support for anti-discrimination exemptions that allow students at schools owned by religious organisations to be expelled on the grounds of sexuality and religious-owned businesses to fire and refuse to hire gay staff.
In response to questions from Sydney Star Observer, the new premier also reaffirmed her support for government-sponsorship of Mardi Gras.
“The NSW Government’s Anti-Discrimination laws provide strong protections for those experiencing discrimination on grounds that include sex, religion, age, sexuality, disability and race,” the premier stated through a spokesperson.
“While strong, these laws also recognise that religious organisations should be allowed to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Anti-Discrimination Act strikes a balance between these competing interests.”
On funding for Mardi Gras, the spokesperson said the festival and parade would continue to receive government support, but stopped short of guaranteeing continuation of the in-cash funding announced under former premier Nathan Rees.
The Premier’s Office also avoided taking a stance on the Legislative Assembly’s inquiry into adoption’s recommendation that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt in NSW.
There have been mixed reactions from GLBT rights advocates in response to Keneally taking the premiership.
Community Action Against Homophobia’s Emilia Lawonski said Keneally would need to move swiftly to assure pink voters.
“After her attempt to censor public sentiment against the Pope’s anti-gay stance during World Youth Day the newly appointed NSW remier has a long way to go before she can have the trust of the GLBTI community,” Lawonski said.
“CAAH calls on Premier Keneally to take the lead from Labor governments in Tasmania, Victoria and the ACT by supporting civil unions, relationship registration schemes and adoption rights in NSW, a state which is currently lagging far behind in progressive law reform for same-sex couples and sex and gender diverse people.”
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights lobby was glad the NSW Government would continue to support Mardi Gras, but urged Keneally to move swiftly to change adoption laws, and said it thought the current exemptions for religious groups were unfair.
Since entering Parliament, Keneally has voted in favour of the equalisation of age of consent in 2003, and the Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same-Sex Relationship) Bill of 2008.
During the debate on age of consent, Keneally told Parliament, “As a Catholic, I passionately believe in the gospel message of love, acceptance and tolerance.
“I want to encourage a society in New South Wales where the stigma of homosexual orientation no longer exists, particularly for young people, and where all persons are accepted and supported, not condemned and criminalised.”