More religious aged care providers are pressuring the federal government to allow them to continue to turn away elderly gay and lesbian people.
Sydney-based charity Hammondcare has suggested it will decline Commonwealth funding if it is forced to accept same-sex people, particularly couples, into retirement homes that it runs.

In its submission to the Senate Committee inquiry on the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012, Hammondcare argued that new provisions forcing aged-care providers who receive Commonwealth funds to accept care of same-sex people “may force a number of faith-based aged care providers, for reason of conscience, to decline Commonwealth subsidies” or “withdraw from the sector altogether”.

The independent Christian charity, which specialises in aged and palliative care with a focus on mental health and dementia, operates retirement homes throughout Sydney and much of regional NSW.

Hammondcare joined Anglicare Sydney in voicing its objection to the bill.

At present the Bill, which aims to replace Australia’s five current pieces of discrimination legislation, will uphold exemptions that allow religious bodies and affiliates to hire and fire employees based on their sexuality, religious leanings, relationship status or any other criteria the organisation deems may “injure religious susceptibilities of adherents”.

However, the new law would no longer allow religious aged-care service providers to turn away same-sex people and couples into nursing homes and retirement villages that they run on the grounds of their sexuality.

Shortly after Anglicare Sydney publicly opposed the legislation, Anglicare South Australia CEO Reverend Peter Sandeman released a statement reiterating his organisation’s commitment to diversity.

“Anglicare SA is committed to delivering quality services regardless of race, age, gender, sexual preference or disability. We view diversity as an asset to our work,” Sandeman said in the statement.  While Anglicare is a national organisation, state bodies determine their own policies regarding treatment of same-sex people and fulfilment of Christian doctrine generally.

NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby male convenor Justin Koonin said the government was right to withhold funding.

“Religious freedom does not override the rights of others to live free from discrimination, especially if they are elderly or vulnerable,” Koonin said.

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