Friday, April 25, 2008

The Daily Telegraph - "Gay couple's foster parents ban overturned" by Bruce McDougall

A GAY couple have won a landmark discrimination case after they were banned from becoming foster parents because they are homosexual.

The couple, whose identities have been suppressed, took legal action when their application to become foster carers was refused by a welfare agency linked to the Uniting Church.

After a hearing the Administrative Decisions Tribunal has ruled that they were "unlawfully discriminated against on the ground of homosexuality".

The couple were awarded $5000 each in compensation after the tribunal found they were "deeply hurt, insulted and embarrassed".

They lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board after being told an application to become foster carers would not be accepted.

The Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits unlawful discrimination in the provision of services on the grounds of homosexuality and marital status.

Gay couples are legally allowed to become foster carers in NSW but the agency defended its decision by arguing it was exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act on religious grounds.

Legal experts said last night the case, involving a challenge to the Act for religious reasons, was "very interesting".

"It is definitely an unusual case - particularly the discussion of Christian doctrine (in the judgment)," one legal observer said.

In its judgment the tribunal said: "The evidence makes it clear that a heterosexual person in the same position as each applicant would have been provided with the services necessary to allow an application to become a foster carer to be processed and assessed on its merits. We find the refusal to provide those services constitutes less favourable treatment."

The tribunal refused a request by the couple for a public apology but ordered the welfare agency to review its policy on homosexual foster carers and "take all necessary steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination on the ground of homosexuality in the facilitation and provision of its foster care services".

The Iemma Government has since flagged it will change the law to grant lesbian parents the same parenting rights as heterosexuals.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament amending a total of 50 laws across NSW to include new parental presumption protection for female same-sex couples.

In schools administration staff will be forced to recognise both partners in the gay couple as "parents".

A spokesman for Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said: "In relation to this specific case, the period during which this case could be appealed by either party has not expired and it would be inappropriate to comment."

[Link: Original Article]

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