A private school which dared to speak out against the anti-discrimination loopholes which allow religious schools to fire gay and lesbian employees has been denied entry into the Association of Independent Schools NSW.

Macquarie Grammar, an independent school in the city, contacted the AIS to enquire about joining, but were told they would be denied before they had lodged a formal application.

In a letter explaining the decision, the AIS cited concern over comments made by Macquarie Grammar’s principal Dr Darryl Gauld in his 2008 annual school report. Gauld wrote that private schools accepting taxpayer funds should be subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as any other public school or institution.

“It is the view of this Association that the comments are not consistent with the ethos of this organisation and its membership and, indeed, would be offensive to many of our members,” AIS executive director Geoff Newcombe wrote.

A spokesman for the school said the issue of anti-discrimination and fairness in the workplace was a key concern for the school’s principal. Last year Gauld led a group of students in the Mardi Gras parade.

“I warned the principal but he said ‘No, I want to take a stand and I want Macquarie Grammar to be on the map as the school that stood up and said fair go. We can operate under the same laws as anybody else without any problems’,” the spokesman told Sydney Star Observer.

“He marched in the 1970s to support an anti-discrimination act, and it’s shocking to him that 30 years later it can still be possible for religious schools to claim exemptions from that Act.

“It’s fine for the AIS to take exception to what our principal said, but why take it out on our students and their families and our teachers? They’re the ones being denied the benefits of the staff development programs. We weren’t interested in the funding programs — we’ve never asked for a single dollar of public funding.”

The spokesman said parents were still supportive of the school’s strong stance on the laws, which have enabled schools to fire gay and lesbian staff members, stop gay and lesbian students from taking their same-sex partners to the formal and allowed religious schools to expel gay and lesbian students.

On its website, the AIS states one of its principles is the right of every independent school “to have their ethos and values reflected in the nature and character of the school”.

When asked to explain why this did not extend to having an independent school led by a man committed to the values of anti-discrimination, Newcombe declined to comment.

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