Churches get opt-out from same-sex adoption bill in NSW
Sounds like it will get blocked in the upper house anyway. Fred Nile should see to that. It's a big contrast with bigoted Britain where church agencies have been driven out of adoption services
THE independent state MP Clover Moore has moved to shore up support for her same-sex adoption bill by giving church adoption agencies the right to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.
Ms Moore wrote to MPs on Friday announcing she would amend the bill and reintroduce it to Parliament on Thursday. She told the Herald she was amending the bill "in line with requests" from church adoption agencies to help ensure its passage through Parliament.
"Some members of Parliament have told me that they will not support reform without an exemption for church-based adoption agencies," she said. "While the amendments do not reflect my strong belief that there should be no exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act, the bill is so important to the security of families headed by same-sex couples that I cannot risk possible defeat."
The convener of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Kellie McDonald, said the group had argued against the amendment, but was taking a pragmatic approach. "We're obviously not in support of religious exemptions," she said. "However, if the amendment means the bill gets passed, we are in support of this happening. If it means that it will persuade some of the more conservative MPs to support the bill and it gets support, that's a good outcome."
However, news of the amendment has not changed the view of church leaders. A letter co-authored by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, arrived on MPs' desks yesterday urging them to vote down the bill.
It follows a similar letter to MPs earlier this month from one of the state's leading adoption agencies, Anglicare, which has said the original proposal would force it to cease offering adoption services.
The chief executive of Anglicare Sydney, Peter Kell, said yesterday that the amendment did not change the agency's opposition to the principle of the bill, but he was pleased it would allow Anglicare to continue adoption services if it becomes law.
The NSW Council of Churches will hold a protest meeting in the NSW Parliament House theatrette today in opposition to the bill.
The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, have agreed to allow their MPs a conscience vote on the issue.
However, the Christian Democratic MLC, the Reverend Fred Nile, said the proposed amendment would not alter his view. "I'm pleased that [Ms Moore] is amending it," Mr Nile said. "But it doesn't change our opposition in principle to the objects of the bill. I believe every child has a right to a mother and a father".
The amendment brings Ms Moore's bill into line with the recommendations of a Legislative Council committee into the issue last year.