A petition started by former Blue Mountains Grammar students condemning the school’s backing for a campaign that seeks to “entrench discrimination” against gay staff has attracted more than 2800 signatures.
One of the Grammar school’s joint acting heads was among 34 Anglican principals to sign an open letter to all federal MPs, supporting the preservation of powers that would let them discriminate against gay staff. It stemmed from Anglican officials concerned about losing religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws during debate brought on by the recent religious freedom review.
In the petition the former Grammar students call on the school to retract its signature from the letter.
More than 20 class of 1996 alumni on Monday sent a letter to the school’s board encouraging it to change its position. “The choice of BMGS to associate itself with a stance which seeks to entrench discrimination sends the wrong message to current students, current and former staff and alumni who are LGBTQI …” they write.
Darren Rodrigo was a Grammar student for six years, completing year 12 in 1996. He started the petition to demonstrate the depth of community concern.
“It’s about standing by these people who have every right to attend the school and not feel like second class citizens,” Mr Rodrigo said.
“It [the letter] sends a message to the LGBTIQ community that they don’t fit in here, there’s not a place for you, you don’t belong.”
While he wasn’t suggesting anyone at BMGS held these views; in fact the school encouraged its students to be accepting and inclusive, the stance taken in the open letter sought to do the opposite.
“To live these values is to include and accept all, not just those who are ‘worthy’ or reflect a particular ‘ethos’,” Mr Rodrigo said.
“The Blue Mountains is a broadly progressive area where 63.9 per cent of the electorate was in favour of marriage equality. This [open letter] doesn’t accord with community wishes.”
Blue Mountains Grammar posted a statement about the letter on its Facebook page which attracted a flood of comments, many expressing outrage at the school’s support of the letter.
BMGS joint acting head, Andrew Beitsch, said the school continued to support the letter. “The school supported the open letter to seek law reform in relation to religious freedom. This is an important feature of democracy and the school is concerned that the current legislation is misleading by confusing the right of a school to hire staff that support its ethos with discrimination based on sexuality. A more positive legal framework which is more akin to preserving freedoms is needed,” he said.
“LGBTQIA+ staff, students and families will continue to be welcomed. Categorically the school is committed to supporting all staff, students and families regardless of beliefs, age, sexual identity, background, etc.”